Reputation grows from behavior, not PR campaigns

Surprise Update 10/27/08: Stevens Found Guilty (Duh!)


What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

While reading this AP account of the Ted Stevens trial, I was reminded again that actions speak louder than words. The 84-year-old Stevens, longtime U.S. Senator from Alaska, is accused of accepting gifts from those who reaped the government contracts he engineered. Stevens said they weren’t gifts at all, and that the prosecutor has it all wrong.

From the AP:

But prosecutors say he had a history of accepting gifts — including an expensive massage chair in his Washington, D.C., home — and omitting them from financial disclosure forms. Stevens has insisted repeatedly that the chair was a loan from a friend, although it has been in his house for seven years.

”How is that not a gift?” Prosecutor Brenda Morris asked.

”He bought that chair as a gift, but I refused it as a gift,” Stevens said. ”He put it there and said it was my chair. I told him I would not accept it as a gift. We have lots of things in our house that don’t belong to us.”

Yikes! Is it possible that an elected official can be this arrogant? OK, dumb question. But really, has Stevens maybe been growing and consuming some of that wacky weed allowable under Alaskan law?

Thank you, Ted Stevens, for underscoring the most basic of public relations lessons: Reputations are based 90% on what you do and only 10% on what you say. Too often the real challenge for PR counsel is to keep our clients from pulling a Ted Stevens. I doubt any PR person could have saved him or his reputation on this one.

This is amusing. As I checked facts to confirm that Alaska’s liberal marijuana law was still in force, I found this page from the pro-weed Stop the Drug War organization.  It’s adorned with a banner ad featuring one of our favorite “mavericks,” Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. I’m sure it’s just a glitch in the ad-buying algorithms. Maybe it would make more sense after a few bong hits. (And let’s not forget that other classic from Alaska, Bong Hits 4 Jesus.)

In the world of sports, another “Doh!” I don’t read the sports page, but my son Todd knows a boneheaded PR move when he sees one. An avid golfer, he put me on to this one.

Seems the Ladies Professional Gold Association last month enacted a policy requiring that its players learn to speak English by the end of 2009.  Say what???? I’ll assume the PR folks at LPGA didn’t get invited to this meeting.

I also learned that the tour’s top player happens to be Mexican, and more than a little miffed by all this. From the AP:

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Lorena Ochoa of Mexico says a new LPGA Tour policy requiring players to be effective in English starting in 2009 is a “little drastic.”

Ochoa, the No. 1 player in women’s golf, says golfers are better judged by their performance.

She was asked at a charity event in her hometown of Guadalajara on Tuesday if she thought the new policy discriminated against international players.

“That is a very strong word. I wouldn’t want to use it,” said Ochoa, who speaks English. “But I do think it is a little drastic.”

There are 121 international players from 26 countries on the LPGA Tour, including 45 players from South Korea.

I know, I know. This blow-up happened last month. Where have I been? Maybe I gotta start reading the sports pages. But why?

Sports figures are notorious for bad PR moves — and even some of the most popular among them do really dumb things to damage their reputations. Take our local fan fav in Cleveland, LeBron James.

Seems that Cleveland’s most popular sports hero is a lifelong Yankees fan, which in itself is unforgivable if you grow up in Northeast Ohio, as James did. But LB, you don’t have to flaunt it before the very fans who pay your salary. It’s bad PR. Very bad.

You may recall the story from last October when James showed up at the Yankees-Indians playoff game in Cleveland sporting a Yankees cap.

Seems that some clients need their PR adviser to act as wardrobe consultant. You work in a city that worships you, man. And a city that also hates the Yankees. Lose the hat!

Will this have a lasting impact on LB’s reputation?  Not likely, so long as he puts up MVP-type numbers. But  one year later a popular Cleveland talk show host still refuses to discuss James or the Cavaliers on the air until “LaBoob” apologizes to the fans.

See why I don’t read the sports page?

Yep, what we do speaks far more loudly than what we say. Emerson said it more than 150 years ago. Wisdom of the ages.


One Response to Reputation grows from behavior, not PR campaigns

  1. John Kerezy says:

    Right on target! Sen. Stevens has two homes filled with “unaccepted as gifts” goods. I know — I used to work for him. As far as marijuana, Alaska Independence Party, etc., well….you have to live there for a while to understand, and even then you might not “get it.”

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