Lance Armstrong is a PR nightmare

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By Kevin Woo, Robinson Marketing | January 27, 2013

San Francisco – What’s the worst PR job in America right now?  Maybe it’s trying to get a pro-gun spokesman a fair hearing on Piers Morgan Tonight.  Or how about trying to sort out key messages for conservative Republicans?  I think the worst PR job has got to be trying to spin the Lance Armstrong story.  For years there were rumors that Armstrong took performance enhancing drugs.  He supposedly came “clean” during his interview with Oprah Winfrey but within a week we discovered that he might have lied to her as well.

If you’re Armstrong’s flak what would you advise him to do?  How do you clean up the mess after the Oprah interview?

You know how I’d handle the mess?  I’d quit.  I know that sounds extreme and quitting is not what PR people do.  But some clients just don’t get it.  There’s no question he’s done good things with his brand (Live Strong is an example) and he could probably get a second chance if he’d come clean and tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  But it seems as if Armstrong thinks he’s above that.  He wants to play the game by his rules regardless of what everyone else thinks.

When you have a client who can’t (or won’t) be honest with the public, even when the evidence against them is overwhelming, it’s time to walk away.  They can’t be trusted nor helped.  Throwing them to the wolves sounds cruel but PR people have their own reputations to protect and going down with the Lance Armstrong ship is no way to protect it.

Good luck Lance.  It looks like you’ve got a long road ahead to redeem yourself in the eyes of the American public. But you might have to do it alone because a smart PR person would say no to you as a client.

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Kevin Woo is a freelance writer from San Francisco. He’s also a 20-year PR professional so he has a unique perspective on media and media relations.