Public Relations Lessons from Robert Downey, Jr.
In case you find yourself in the middle of a scandal or managing not-so-great PR, look no further than Hollywood heroes for advice on how to walk tall even after falling into a pickle.
Robert Downey Jr. is the kid returning this year with a starring role in Iron Man. For the last 15 years or so, the only time you’ve heard his name was in connection with a drug bust or another failed stint in rehab. Bloggers joked that the only costume I’d expect Downey Jr. to wear was the orange jumpsuit from the county jail. We now see him dressed as the intense genius billionaire Tony Stark and enjoying redemption from him.
Downey Jr. has learned to refer to his difficult years with a heavy dose of wit and self-deprecating humor. I’m sure his 4 years of sobriety has helped him move to a place of acceptance on this subject.
OK, so what does this middle-aged Brat-Packer have to do with you?
Sometimes things happen in business that we can’t control. His company may be involved in a complicated legal dispute, he may have shot a reporter’s mouth off without first involving his brain, or he may have made a big mistake in some unforeseen way. And, God, don’t want to piss off a rabid blogger who goes to town by publicly discrediting him.
Any way you look at it, it’s not the most positive attention for your business. So what do you do next?
Damage control starts with you. Here are some tips in case you run into any public relations trouble and need to get your good name back.
1. Admit it.
Nobody wants to point fingers or accusations, that will make you look like a crybaby. Take the Harry Truman approach and let people know that the responsibility is yours. Your ego may have to take one for the team, but you’ll come out stronger in the long run. You want to acknowledge a problem and assure people that a fix is in the works, if it hasn’t already been enacted. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg incurred the ire of many last year with his inaction and ended up all over the blogosphere because of it. (http://scobleizer.com/2007/12/04/where-the-hell-is-mark-zuckerberg-and-facebook/)
2. Chin up.
Mary Poppins offers some great advice if you think about it. Chin up means you’re saying, “Okay, I’m in the middle of a bunch of crap, but I’m not going to let that get me down. I still have my dignity.” In this category, look at the spouses of high-profile people mired in scandal. Name any wife-in-law whose husband has been caught with his pants down (literally). Save your emotions for the therapist’s couch, but in public stay strong. You can always write a memoir that says it all after the dust settles and make a fortune.
3. Do something nice to make up for it.
On any scale, part of acknowledging wrongdoing must be expressed in action. Maybe you need to send someone a nice card with a sincere apology. Or maybe charity work is reserved to get your good name back. Do something publicly to rewrite your story. People will remember your most recent acts, so make sure you keep paying back with good deeds.
At some point, you will be able to look back and realize that you learned a great lesson through this. The ups and downs are what make leaders strong. Remember not to give up if something negative comes your way… deal with it with common sense and humility, then keep moving forward in leaps and bounds with your newfound wisdom.
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Nancy Marmolejo is a PR, media and social media strategist who teaches women entrepreneurs how to generate more money and attention by positioning yourself in the spotlight. An award-winning business owner, Nancy is frequently quoted in the areas of business, creativity, and social media. Get Nancy’s free 7-part audio course by visiting www.VivaVisibility.com