Suh a Case Study in Reputation Management

Posted filed under Brand Strategy, Business Management, crisis management, Media Relations.

Confronting a reputation management problem head on

Detroit Lions star Ndamukong Suh recently presented a valuable lesson for anyone (or any company) who has faced or will face a crisis of reputation.

If you are unfamiliar with the context, Suh has (rightfully or unjustly) earned a league-wide reputation for being a dirty player. His reputation precedes him, and not in a good way (at least in this context).

But rather than let negative public perception grow out of control, Suh recently took the bull by the horns in an attempt to mitigate further reputation damage. He stepped up and requested a face-to-face meeting with the league’s commissioner, a very visible action to address the situation head-on and correct what he feels is unfair treatment by the league and the press.

And he’s being lauded across the board for taking the initiative:

“We appreciate that Ndamukong Suh, Coach Schwartz, and team president Tom Lewand took the time to meet with us today. Ndamukong plays the game with great skill and passion and is a major reason for the Lions’ success this year,” Goodell said in a statement.

“In the course of our dialogue today, we reviewed video showing that Ndamukong has clearly made the adjustments to play consistently within the rules so that he can continue to help the team. We commend Ndamukong’s leadership in taking the initiative to schedule today’s meeting.”

This is what many like to refer to as a “teachable moment.” It is a classic and relevant example of someone getting out in front of the story. Suh could’ve very well left well enough alone, allowing the reputation to fester and living with the consequences. But a negative public perception was affecting his ability to be successful on the field (and likely in the endorsement arena—the rest of the “business” associated with professional sports), so he took action to correct it.

My instant analysis of the immediate media and public reaction is that this did a great service to the Suh brand. People gave him credit. They were willing to listen to his case. They were willing to reconsider their preconceived version of the truth. In the end, Suh comes out ahead and looking like the bigger person. (Truth be told, he’s almost always the bigger person.) And he heads the issue off at the pass—at least temporarily.

Consider how this applies to your personal brand or your company’s reputation. Hiding and denying does very little to sway public opinion. Addressing issues head-on and quickly demonstrates strength, conviction and pride…and the public will give you credit for that alone.

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This wonderful post was written by

Mark Winter is managing partner and co-founder of Identity, where he shares day-to-day responsibilities for the management and growth of the firm. He has more than 20 years of experience in the development and execution of creative, meaningful and measurable marketing and media relations programs. During that time, Mark has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs, small and midsize companies and large corporations establish their brands, tell their stories, generate awareness, soften their sales process and meet their goals.

Nikki Little (Stephan)
Nikki Little (Stephan)

It's crazy how many different examples there are lately of public figures dealing with reputation management issues, including Rick Perry and Joe Paterno. I've been paying close attention to how these people are handling their respective crises, and I totally agree with what you said - "Addressing issues head-on quickly demonstrates strength, conviction and pride…and the public will give you credit for that alone." However, I believe there are certain situations that are so negative that the public won't be forgiving, even with admittance and apologies (Joe Paterno may soon learn this). But covering up the truth is the worst anyone can do, particularly those who are in the spotlight and will be torn to pieces by the media and social media users the second the truth comes out.


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