As I watched the Lakers win another NBA Championship what really stood out to me was not Kobe Bryant’s dynamic performance, but rather the success of his public relations team. It was not so long ago that he was caught in a world wind of controversy, but now it all seems like a distant memory.
Some celebrities are able to bounce back from career ending screw up’s, and some just simply fade to black in disgrace as their career comes to an end. Take for example Mel Gibson’s latest PR disaster in which he warns his girlfriend that she could get raped by a “Pack of Ni***ers.” We can definitely put a fork in Mr. Gibson, because he is now officially done in Hollywood.
Mel Gibson’s latest racial rant has once again landed him on the front page of every entertainment publication around the world, and was even the lead story on Entertainment Tonight (ET). Even the best of my PR colleagues are telling me that they will send Mel Gibson’s call straight to voice mail if he calls them seeking damage control with this one.
Please keep in mind that fan’s have already forgiven him once for his first cacophony of defamatory comments about the Jewish Community. Now we can only wonder as to which ethic group he will attack next in his latest epic “Mel Gibson’s March To The Sea.”
Cases like Mel Gibson’s are actually the extreme end when it comes to dealing with negative publicity. You can actually take some comfort in knowing that there is hope for you, if your latest screw up is north of Mel Gibson’s. Unlike Gibson, Kobe Bryant did the “Right Thing” with our forgiveness and truly proved that his incident was a mistake in judgment. As a culture we can truly understand a stupid mistake, if your actions afterwards totally contradict the reason you had to call an “I’m so sorry” press conference.
Ray Lewis, Hugh Grant, Winona Ryder, Eddie Murphy, Jimmy Swaggart, Justin Timberlake, and Todd Bridges just to name a few, all have done extraordinary jobs at recovering from potentially career ending mistakes.
How To Move Forward From A Nightmare
Kobe Bryant up to this point has lived an exceptional life since he made is public mistake, and because of that he has honored our forgiveness. After Magic Johnson’s Press Conference on November 7, 1991, we have never read another negative article about his lifestyle. It’s not the fall that gets you banned from public view; it’s the repeated falls that causes us to wipe our hands of you.
Now the same rules that apply to famous athletes and celebrities also applies to you. The first step in moving forward from bad publicity is to never make that mistake again. It’s not as important that you convince the public that you made the biggest mistake of your life, but rather your ability to convince yourself that it was simply stupid and out of character.
Listed below are three tips that will help you change public perception after your own personal press conference of shame.
Don’t Ever Do It Again – I know this may seem very obvious to those of you who posses common sense, but as my grandmother would always say “common sense is not common.” If you ever think about repeating the same mistake just remember the example of Kobe Bryant and Mel Gibson. Change your lifestyle, get control of your habits, and even consider new friends if the change will place you in the company of more responsible people. At this point you have to take your personal life in a totally different direction. Try to search yourself in an attempt to find out what made you commit such a stupid act. Take responsibility for your actions and never, never ever, place the blame on a 3rd party.
Stay Out Of The Press – After your press conference of shame, disappear from the press for a period of 1-3 years. You need to allow time for the smoke to settle, and time to pass before you’re out generating new publicity. Even if you’re involved in something positive, the perception of your participation will still cast a negative cloud. Avoid making charity appearances or making huge donations, because the perception will be that you’re trying to buy your way back into good grace. The best thing to do at this point is re-focus on your career or business in a way that adds value to your brand.
Reinvent Yourself – You are the CEO of you. Every decision from this point has to place you in the best possible light, and the best possible environment. You have to become the person you really are in the eyes of public perception. Having said that, you have the right to totally reinvent your brand in a way that still looks and feels genuine, without appearing fake. To reinvent doesn’t mean to go over the top, but to simply bleach your image. You can accomplish this with a change in your wardrobe, public appearances, associations, mindset, attitude, expression, and ventures. The best part about recovering from bad publicity is people will root for you because they really want to see you bounce back. Never forget the fact that everyone loves the Comeback Kid.
Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens went from the darkest days of his life, to one of the most respected and admired men on, and off the football field. I encourage you to learn from your mistake and truly change your life in a way that would make the likely hood of this ever happening again extremely unlikely. As a Public Relations Professional, I offer you the same advice that I mandate of my clients. When it comes to rebuilding your life, you will have to subscribe to the following principal or you risk having your name or brand banished and forever tarnished.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.