Sunday, January 20, 2013

The truth will set you free

Oprah: Did you ever take banned substances to enhance your cycling performance?
Armstrong: Yes.

Oprah: Did you ever blood dope or use blood transfusions to enhance your cycling performance?
Armstrong: Yes.

Oprah: Did you ever use any other banned substances like testosterone, cortisone, or human growth hormone?
Armstrong: Yes.

Oprah: In all seven of your Tour de France victories, did you ever take banned substances or blood dope?
Armstrong: Yes.

Oprah: In your opinion, was it humanly possible to win the Tour de France seven times in a row without doping?
Armstrong: No.

In a candid interview with Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong admits he doped throughout his cycling career.

I’ve blogged a few times about the Lance Armstrong doping controversy, so I’d just like to share a quick response to the Oprah interview.

Throughout the interview, Armstrong said he’s lied this whole time about taking performance-enhancing drugs. He also said he was sorry…many times.

Despite an “EPO generation” where doping was part of the “cycling culture,” Armstrong acknowledged it was no excuse to lie about doping, let alone actually dope. He said his apology on Oprah's show has come too late and that it’s his fault. He describes this controversy as one big lie he repeated a lot of times; a story that was perfect for so long wasn’t true.

Oprah: Did it feel wrong at the time?
Armstrong: No..and that's scary.

Oprah: Did you feel bad about it? 
Armstrong: No..even scarier.

Oprah: Did you feel in any way you were cheating?
Armstrong: No..the scariest.

Despite the repercussions Armstrong and his publics face, I believe Armstrong handled himself very well in the interview. He acknowledged he was an “arrogant jerk” for many years, and positioned himself in a way that demonstrates he’s turning a new leaf. And perhaps most importantly, he apologized. He finally told the truth and said he was sorry.

Perhaps Armstrong ended up viewed as the victim in some way after this interview, but I thought he seemed genuine. He laid everything out on the table and answered the questions he was asked.

Armstrong had likely lost all credibility after the truth of this nearly decade-long scandal came out. But I think the Oprah interview will likely help him gain back some of the credibility he’s lost.

I hope for Armstrong that his ex-wife and Oprah are right: “the truth will set you free”.

If you missed the live interview, watch it online on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Armstrong tweets and...dopes?

Lance Armstrong is considering publicly admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs.

This past August, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France medals and received a lifetime ban from professional cycling competitions. In October, the shunned cyclist stepped down as chairman of the charity he founded, Lance Armstrong Livestrong Foundation. Armstrong said the following in a statement:

"This organization, its mission and its supporters are incredibly dear to my heart. Today therefore, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship."

Armstrong has been in Hawaii and out of the spotlight for the last little while. During this time, sources say Armstrong was hoping to compete in triathlons and road races. The only problem? Many of those events are authorized by WADA, the World Anti-doping Agency responsible for his doping allegations. This means no chance for glory.

While laying low (or lying low?), Armstrong tweeted a picture of himself laying on a couch surrounded by his seven framed Tour de France jerseys. His tweet received more than 6,000 retweets and 1,700 favorites by the next the day.

Was this an act of ignorance or plea for innocence?

Asked about Armstrong's possible admittance, Armstrong's lawyer told the New York Times "Lance has to speak for himself on that". This hush-hush response suggests even a hint of Armstrong preparing to give an admission of guilt will set off a chain of events that would arguably be a nightmare for his PR practicioner.

So, with WADA sporting restrictions, is Armstrong coming clean or does he just want back in the game? Armstrong stepped down from his charity to "spare the foundation and negative effects" as a result of the controversy. Armstrong has maintained his innocence and this clean message has been pretty consistent across the board.

Having not spoken to the media in the longest time, I think admitting to doping now would only destroy Armstrong's image further and produce drastic negative consequences to the Livestrong Foundation. Armstrong had his chance to admit to doping from the beginning, and going back on his word now would only cause damage to his and the Foundation's reputation.

With his ban from WADA to compete in certain sporting events, Armstrong's possible admittance seems convenient, not sincere. What do you think?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Customers give free, unplanned PR

PR often gets a bad rap. Dicey company decisions can cause PR pros to make tricky decisions and hopefully maintain their rep for future clients. But sometimes, if you’re lucky, a good dose of PR will happen because of someone outside your PR department.

This story happened a couple weeks ago, but I feel it’s worth bringing up. In December, a Winnipeg Tim Hortons chain decided to spread some holiday cheer and pick up the tabs of customers at random. The project was called Random Cups of Kindness.

Although a nice gesture, and a nice PR tactic in my opinion, I hadn’t heard about the chain’s Random Cups of Kindness effort. Instead, I heard about the customer on December 21 who decided to pay for the order of the next vehicle in the drive-thru line. This little act of generosity began a chain of random acts of kindness to pay for the next person in line that lasted three hours (228 orders total).

Journalists want people stories – outlets want to report about events that influence society (and hopefully better it). Well-timed with the holiday season, the Timmies chain was smart to be generous and pick up tabs. However, I believe it was the human element that won this story it’s publicity.

The general manager of the chain was quoted as saying the store had a lot of energy, and the staff was so excited they’d shout out the number of “pay it forwards” all morning. A real buzz started in – and out – of the store.

It’s interesting that no matter how clever your PR tactic, sometimes the best publicity is unplanned. This story spread good holiday cheer, showed the generosity of Winnipeggers, and still brought attention to Tim Hortons. Also, with customers paying for others’ tabs, the restaurant was able to make money they were previously giving away, and gain some good rep at the same time.

I guess December really is the most wonderful time of the year – for coffee drinkers especially.

P.S. Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! I'm back in full swing again, so expect new posts once a week!