In my post last week I shared 4 personal brand attributes that transcend cultures with examples of globally famous people who in my opinion epitomize these attributes. This week I want to focus on one personal brand in particular, Lance Armstrong, and why I feel his recent confession to years of lying actually did far more damage to his personal brand than good.
Lance’s confession should have been THE critical first step in his personal brand redemption. However, the vagueness of his words in some cases, and the downright arrogance in others lead to 4 personal branding mistakes. Sure Lance’s legal team likely coached him on what to say, how to say it, and where to be vague. Lance will have legal trouble no matter what he says. Yet, if he truly wanted to pedal out of the starting gate and begin Stage 1 of the most important ‘Tour’ of his life, then he should have avoided these 4 personal branding FAILS.
FAIL #1: Lack of Sincerity
“I didn’t fail a test. Retroactively, I failed those.”
“The definition of cheat is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe that they don’t have. I didn’t view it that way.”
Lance has proven that he is a master of semantics, and this interview was no different. His monotone voice and choice of words continued to damage his credibility. Lance’s language was more of someone expressing arrogance and blame, and less of someone taking genuine and sincere ‘ownership’. Yes, he verbally admitted he took performance enhancement drugs. He is owning up to that, but to not be fully transparent and say “I cheated” does not convey the sincerity we expected.
FAIL #2: Selfish Intentions
“If you’re asking me if I want to compete again, the answer is hell yes, I’m a competitor.”
This to me was an eye-opening statement. As an athlete it is a given that Lance desires to compete again, but why emphasize it in this forum? This single comment was a personal branding killer. People go on Oprah to seek forgiveness, to offer their mea culpa, to pull back the curtain. This comment confirmed a selfish intention to cut a deal and compete again.
FAIL #3: Woe is Me Attitude
“I don’t like thinking about it but it was a $75 million day.”
Lance had a great opportunity to acknowledge that his actions justified the loss of his sponsorships. However, he decided to focus more on how he lost his future income as if this would be a reason for the world to feel bad for him. I think it is fair to say that nobody anywhere is feeling pity for him.
FAIL #4: No Foundation of Integrity
“Everybody that gets caught is bummed out they got caught.”
“This story was so perfect for so long.”
Would Lance have ever admitted to all of this if the evidence hadn’t been strong enough to strip him of his titles and ban him for life? After seeing this interview, it is clearer to me and millions of others around the world that he likely never would have.
And Body Language Counts Too!
In addition to these verbal faux pas, Lance also managed to further damage his image simply with his body language.
People who are being transparent use open body language, steady eye contact, a relaxed posture, and a lean forward as if reaching out to others. Lance demonstrated non-verbal communication that was quite the opposite to these actions throughout most of the interview. Many critics feel that his body language demonstrated that he continued to lie. Clearly not the impression he should have left.
Peter Sterlacci is known as “Japan’s personal branding pioneer” and is one of only 15 Master level Certified Personal Branding Strategists in the world. He is introducing a leading global personal branding methodology to companies and careerists in Japan and adapting it for the Japanese culture. In a culture where fitting-in is the norm, his mission is to pioneer a ‘cultural shift’ by helping Japanese to stand out in a global environment. His background spans over 21 years in intercultural consulting, international outreach, and global communication coaching.