With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, how do you handle a problem like Bobby B.?
The news that future Hall of Fame slugger Barry Bonds not only used steroids to fuel his home run assault but lied about it to Congress now puts his future in the Hall of Fame in doubt. And Barry will blast the media for its relentless reporting and will once again threaten retirement.
Good. It’s about time. Get on with your bad self, Mr. Bonds. But before you start writing your Cooperstown speech, there’s a huge PR problem to overcome.
I’d like to talk about what to do if you were the firm handling Barry Bonds’ media appearances, but frankly, I’m pretty sure it’s an impossible task. Bonds has had a hate-hate relationship with the press for years and this latest bombshell will only exacerbate the tension. Barry will blame everyone but himself as his legacy is goes from mythical to pitiful.
If Bonds wants a peek at his future, just look at what’s happened to Pete Rose.
Charlie Hustle was my boyhood hero and for years I defended him against the allegations that he gambled on the game. When I was a radio talk show host back in Ohio, I was thrilled to have Pete Rose in studio before a big sports banquet in town. Eager to have The Man himself clear the air, the very first question I asked was, “Pete, here’s your chance to set the record straight--did you ever bet on baseball?”
And Pete Rose looked me straight in the eye and said, “Mark, I don’t know how to make it any plainer…I never bet on baseball. Period.”
Not soon after that, his book came out and he fessed up. And I realized that the hero of my youth had lied to my face.
Here’s the PR lesson—in the full court press of today’s media culture, you cannot be too transparent! But to be honest with others, you first must be honest with yourself. Honesty creates trust and trust is your reputation’s greatest friend.
When your ego is a big as Bonds’, it’s impossible to repair your reputation. My advice is to replace the ego-driven drivvel with humble, honest communication and you’ll be on your way to repairing your reputation
Remember, an excellent reputation is built on two things--transparency and accountability. These are things Barry Bonds is lacking and what makes it worse, he refuses to deal with them. His response to the new book that refueled the steroids story—"I won't even look at it. For what? There's no need to.” And the boat to denial just sailed again.