The Charlie Sheen effect: How not to protect your brand imageArticle added by Jeffery Hoyle on March 8, 2011
Jeffery Hoyle

Jeffery Hoyle

Denver, CO

Joined: August 21, 2010

The lesson that we can all take from Mr. Sheen’s situation is simply this: guard your brand. Even a small chink on the armor can send you from the top to the bottom in record time. If you find yourself involved in a situation where the credibility of you or your brand is on the line, there are a few simple guidelines that you should consider following.

Let us have a moment of silence please for the career that was Charlie Sheen’s. A news broadcast of late just isn’t the same without a new video rant by the embattled actor. With CBS making the choice to fire the actor, the battle lines seem to have been drawn, and we can expect a continuance of barbs fired from both camps. As a public relations professional, this situation has the makings of either a PR nightmare, or a potentially career-making challenge. Still, the lesson that we can all take from Mr. Sheen’s situation is simply this: guard your brand.
 
What do I mean by guarding your brand? It’s simple: protect yourself, your name, your business name, anything that is related to how you earn your living. In the case of Mr. Sheen, he seems convinced that his career will do nothing but flourish now that he is free to pursue other opportunities. In his delusional state, even he may believe this to be true, even though the rest of the Hollywood community is doubtful that he and his image can recover from this debacle. Everyone seems to see the writing on the wall, except the person doing most of the writing. In essence, you can potentially do the most damage to your own brand yourself.

Protecting your brand and your image is paramount in the continued success of your business. We have discussed this in previous articles, but now more than ever, it is important to remember that you are only as good as your brand. Even a small chink on the armor can send you from the top to the bottom in record time. Again in the case of Mr. Sheen, the fall from being the highest paid television performer to another unemployed actor was monumental. It also could have been avoided completely.

If you find yourself involved in a situation where the credibility of you or your brand is on the line, there are a few simple guidelines that you should consider following. First and foremost, seek some professional help. Any kind of attack on your livelihood is like an attack on a family member. The natural instincts take over, and your gut response is to pounce on the attacker. However, this can do more damage than good. That is why you should enlist the aid of trusted advisers or members of your staff, as well as a PR professional to form a media response team. The team’s ultimate goal is to offer advice on how to keep those natural instincts in check, and handle things in a much more civilized manner. A head-on assault can only make the situation worse. Your media team can help insure that clearer heads prevail.
Once you have your media team in place, collectively decide what should be done step-by-step, and how each step should be implemented. It is also important that there be a consensus among your team, and that everyone is on the same page. One person going rogue can undermine the entire process. I was part of a media team a few years ago, and even though we had somewhat of a plan in place, our input was ignored, and an ill-advised attack was launched against a major television network. The result? Not the result that was hoped for, but the fallout could have been much worse. Had we as a media team made decisions on how the situation could have been handled, the outcome could have been much different.

Another benefit of a PR professional in these situations is that they can help you make pre-emptive strikes before the press can. Staying ahead of the press can be a full time job in itself, but with today’s Internet technology, tracking your name in the news is much easier than ever before. Subscribing to Google alerts is a simple way to be notified if your name or the name of your business pops up in the news on the net. PR pros have access to other entities that can perform the same task on a more in-depth level. Assigning this task to one member of your media team might be a good idea; again an impartial party that can filter down the bad news into a more palatable synopsis. By staying ahead of the press, you can basically cut off the story at the knees. Your PR pro should also be skilled at press releases, and have a proven media list to ensure that your side of the story gets out there to the right media resources.

Once your team takes down the bad press, it is time to swing into action with all the good press you can. The best way to counteract bad press is with good press. Do a press release expressing your relief that the bad press is behind you, and that you are looking forward to moving ahead in a positive light. Announce any plans you have for growth or expansion, or any internal staffing changes you plan in the aftermath. You can also consider attaching your name to a local charity or non-profit organization; or step up your efforts if you already have a relationship with one. No matter what, we all love to see the underdog succeed and progress, like the phoenix rising from the ashes.
 
My hope is that you never get into a situation the size of that being endured by Charlie Sheen and his camp. I especially hope that if you are facing an attack from the media, you will be smart about the way you handle it. Remember, your name and your reputation is everything when it comes to your business success. Jeopardizing that is not an option. But if you ever find yourself having to defend your name and your business, approach it with intelligence, a calm head, and a vision of your business on the other side. You can overcome!
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