From battling cancer, to beating the odds and winning seven consecutive Tour de France titles, Lance Armstrong, one of the most successful road cyclists in history, came clean in his much anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey last week. Armstrong admitted to using performance enhancing drugs.
After successfully battling cancer, he created the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Built around his success story – an inspiring tale of a young athlete who refused to bow to adversity – one must wonder where Armstrong’s international doping scandal will leave the beloved organization. The whole brand was marketed with Armstrong as its ambassador. The foundation has released a press release stating the organization is pursuing an independent course, separating the foundation from Armstrong. However, the situation raises a challenging public relations question: What do you do if your spokesperson becomes a “liability”?
Below are five steps to better crisis communications from the Bloomberg Businessweek archives:
- Express genuine empathy – acknowledge the tragedy and express your feelings early.
- Own the message quickly – the company/organization/foundation’s voice should be heard in the first 24 hours of a crisis.
- Commit to full transparency – transparency allows an organization to rebuild its reputation.
- Put a face on the industry – it’s important to offer a group of individuals who are prepared to speak on the topic.
- Train the spokesperson – it’s very easy to be misquoted or misinterpreted, training the spokesperson eliminates the likelihood of either happening.
Evidently, the LIVESTRONG Foundation is well on its way to rebuilding its brand. By acknowledging the situation, expressing its disappointment, and releasing a statement within 24 hours, the organization has, so far, shown itself to be present in the situation, empathetic, aware and working hard to re-establish the foundation’s core values.