Expert Opinion

Livestrong or Liestrong

"The United States Anti-Doping Association (USADA) claims that Armstrong and his US Postal Service Team (UPS) Team "ran the most sophisticated, professionalized (sic) and successful doping programme the sport has ever seen." And as we know he has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

On the Oprah Winfrey Show Lance Armstrong needs to admit what he did was wrong and to be sincere in his apology. He needs to demonstrate to his viewing audience contriteness, sincerity and empathy. Armstrong has to convince the general public and his stakeholders that he is going to make amends and work with the sport to ensure that it rids itself of the legacy of doping abuse.

Had Armstrong chosen to come clean right up front when the issue of doping started unravelling in the hope of seeking forgiveness then maybe the initial backlash of his key publics could have been less severe. His primary message during the crisis was one of concern for his cancer charity and no doubt he felt, naively I may add, that if he had come 'clean' it would have impacted on the reputation of the charity. But if you were a cynic you might say that his charity work was a convenient cover for his cheating in the sport that made him famous.

One of the principles of crisis communication is to take care of what you say and how you say it. In other words you have to demonstrate the 5 'C's concern, clarity, control, confidence and competence in dealing with a crisis.

Ultimately, Lance Armstrong and his team failed to show that kind of crisis communications nous. His principal problem is that what he says now - in the eyes of many - will lack credibility because he has tried to defend the indefensible. He should have been open, transparent and honest at the start, because the truth will always out especially in the world of digital and social media when crises have a nasty habit of spreading as fast as a blink of an eye.

As Abraham Lincoln said: 'I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.' It's a pity that Lance Armstrong failed to follow the maxim followed by the 16th president of the United States in the 19th century!

As one of my final year sports marketing & PR students, Alex Sim pointed out perhaps, only one man (Lance Armstrong) will ever really know (the truth). So as he puts it will Lance Armstrong be remembered as being a Livestrong person or a Liestrong person?

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