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Public Relations Fails to Secure Gold, Silver or Bronze

August 24th, 2016


Update #1: after writing my blog, knowing that AFIMAC provided executive protection services to several athletes in Rio, I asked my colleague Adrian Vergel a couple questions as a follow up. See his thoughts further down.

I think that my first memory of a ‘non’ something was in a Seinfeld episode many years ago when one of the characters was asked to a party with no notice, with the host knowing full well that the invitee would not be able to attend. It was a ‘non-invite’.

Over the years, ‘non-apologies’ have been getting much attention. For example, a public figure does or says something that is not favourable and the public demands an apology; so they apologize. Their response is, “I am sorry it upset you” or “I am sorry that it was taken out of context.” Not really owning up to anything, and suggesting that they did nothing wrong. It was how others perceived it.

Regardless of what you think about Ryan Lochte’s actions that gained him attention outside of his success in the Olympic pool, he hired a PR firm to assist him. The statement below was his first regarding the situation:

If this was written for Ryan, which it most likely was, it failed to gain any acceptance from the public and media, possibly because it was a ‘nonapology’.

If history has predicted anything for brands, owning an error vs. trying to talk around it has always yielded a more favourable outcome. (For example Johnson & Johnson (1982), Texaco (1994), Odwalla Foods (1996), Toyota (2010))

As for Ryan Lochte, so far only Speedo has publicly dropped their sponsorship, and although nothing public has been said, sponsor, Ralph Lauren have removed Lochte from their website.

UPDATE #2: before I had a chance to post this blog, Ralph Lauren, Airweave and other sponsors dropped Lochte as well.

Lochte’s teammate Michael Phelps made it back in glorious fashion when his ‘brand’ took a hit, and he lost sponsors, so let’s see what Lochte can do. Whether with or without his new PR firm – they need to prove themselves as well.

UPDATE #3: Although I looked at the PR firms response, Adrian offered his thoughts related to the incident itself. He said: “The role of a security (executive protection) team should include not only the physical protection of the executives or VIPs, but should also consider brand and reputation protection. Keeping the protectees from harming themselves as well as those around them from causing damage.

Had the US swimmers been provided at a bare minimum secure transportation, there is absolutely no way any of this would have happened. If they had a security team with them the whole thing could have been avoided and certainly in the long run it would have saved millions in lost endorsements. A small cost to avoid substantial future loss.”

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