If you watched The Tonight Show with Jay Leno back in the 1990s, you may have seen Hugh Grant come out for his interview to promote a new movie, Nine Months.
This was hot on the heels of Grant’s arrest for lewd conduct with a prostitute. The first question out of Leno’s mouth, much to the roar and approval of the audience, was “What the hell were you thinking?”
Leno said it with a laugh, and Grant went on to respond positively about the incident and what it forced him to think about concerning his life. The incident soon faded into the woodwork and Grant went on to a long and prosperous movie career that continues to this day.
Grant could have canceled the interview before it even happened or walked off the stage in a huff when Leno asked the question, but he stuck to his guns and successfully rehabbed his image.
Corporations and businesses do this all the time, especially when it comes to promoting a positive image of their products or services. But sometimes things turn negative.
This is when companies use similar means to rehab their own reputations. Apple has had to endure numerous PR fiascoes over the last four decades, the latest of which came when its latest IPhone did not have good enough mapping software. Online reputation firms come to mind here. For example, you may have heard a lot about Reputation.com, a company that manages online reputation and Internet privacy for businesses. It is one of many firms that specialize in this.
Reputation management firms deal with corporations like fast-food restaurants all the time. Fast-food companies get jerked around in the age of online stories. There is a public perception that all fast food, particularly that offered by the traditional “burger joints” like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, is loaded with calories and fat.
True, there are sandwiches that are less healthy than others, but companies have responded to the negative publicity by trumping up their positive choices. Apple slices for children have been touted. So has the availability of milk for kids, be it white or chocolate. Healthier fare like salads and lower-calorie sandwiches are brought up daily.
Other public personages have had to go through the wringer before coming out with a slightly better reputation on the other side. Michael Vick’s reputation was pretty much shot after an arrest for dog abuse and cruelty to animals as part of a dog-fighting ring. His reputation isn’t all the way back in many people’s eyes, but his reputation handlers have encouraged a turnaround, citing Vick’s involvement with the Humane Society.
The recent Manti Te’o news that rocked through the sports world – he of the notorious girlfriend that supposedly never existed – is an example of how public institutions sometimes utilize their own reputation management. Notre Dame has brought out heavy artillery, including granting an off-camera interview to ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap. His sit-down interview with Katie Couric was no doubt an attempt by the family, through reputation management experts, to tell his side of the story.
Rather than duck and run, more celebrities need to take the high road like Hugh Grant. Show up for your interview, tell your side of the story, and go from there.