He’s been branded a cheat, a liar, a doper and a bully. He’s accused of building a global sporting reputation and business empire on the back of performance enhancing drugs. He’s been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from international sport. But he has never publically admitted it, and never apologised. Until now.
Tomorrow (Thursday) he is expected to use an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show to launch an attempt at rehabilitating his reputation.
But can he persuade a skeptical world that he deserves a second chance. Can he do what Bill Clinton did so well, and Tiger Woods did less well?
He has to:
- say sorry (and convince the world he means it)
- acknowledge his role in doping
- take responsibility (and not blame others, or claim ‘everyone did it’)
- indicate that his exposure as a cheat has led to a significant change of attitude and behavior
- demonstrate that his ‘confession’ is motivated by more than a desire to protect his sponsorships or get back into sporting competition
Will he do it? Mainstream journalists doubt Oprah will challenge Armstrong with tough questions. She says she asked him more than 100 questions in the pre-recorded interview, and that he surprised her with some answers. But then, she is promoting an interview that she is spreading over two nights.
If Armstrong doesn’t answer the tough questions, if he seeks to justify his actions as ‘just playing the game’, will the world be willing to forgive the man they hailed as a hero just a few years ago?
What would you say in Armstrong’s position? What message would want to deliver? Here’s your chance to judge your crisis communications skills against Lance Armstrong’s. We’d love to hear what you think of the way he handles the big interview. You can comment in the panel below, or send me an email. I’d love to include your comments in a follow-up blog.
I’m giving away an e-copy of my latest book, Media Mastery, for the first person to submit a comment. And there’s another copy for the most considered response to Armstrong’s appearance.
Neil Everton has distilled a lifetime’s experience with some of the world’s top news organizations into his Media Mastery training aids for anyone worried about talking to reporters. The video, books, e-books and workbooks are available in the Podium Coaching online store.