Never underestimate the value of a reputation—it’s something money cannot buy, nor can status. The famous, the titled, and the incredibly wealthy can lose their reputation with a single careless or foolish act, or with an ill-timed or inappropriate comment. Some do manage to lie low and then bounce back, but your reputation is something you should be proud of and protect. Often ego gets in the way, and a feeling of invincibility, but the public perception is something that can never be guaranteed, especially in the eyes of sponsors and brands.
Disgraced Olympian, Ryan Lochte (a winner of 12 Olympic medals) was caught falsifying a robbery to the Brazilian police at the recent Olympics in Rio, which became headline news overshadowing the actual games. He subsequently lost his sponsorship deals with Speedo, Ralph Lauren, Syneron-Candela (a skincare company) and Japanese mattress maker Airweave. With CCTV, it’s much harder to lie and get away with things and brands do not wish to be associated with someone that commits a crime, or acts dishonestly. After being hailed a hero, he is now a disgraced Olympian and after apologizing is attempting to resurrect his image through reality shows.
Paula Deen was another victim of her own arrogance when she admitted to using racial slurs towards a member of her staff. The reaction was swift as the Food Network took her show off the air, and grocery stores chose not to stock her own line of goods or books. Immediately she fought back to save her career and reputation by expressing remorse via chat shows, and magazines such as People, in fact any media that would listen to her.
In both cases the celebrities admitted their errors because they had no choice if they wanted to save their reputation. When there are witnesses, and video evidence you cannot deny that inappropriate behavior occurred. However, what is the standard, and who decides? O.J. Simpson may have been accused of murder, but he was never convicted, yet his career and reputation had already been damaged; Tiger Woods was caught being unfaithful, and lost sponsorship deals after his clean image had been tarnished, and Luis Suaraz, who was caught biting an opponent at the World Cup (and not for the first time) ended up with a ban and suspension, and lost some endorsements. They may not have thought their reputation would matter, thinking their skill and talent would carry them through, but instead lost their reputation and some their means of a living.
In the UK, the current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, was caught out lying about being being unable to find a seat on a busy train. With his film crew, he chose to sit on the floor and shot a clip accusing the train company of being inadequate and expensive to further his claims that the railways needed to be nationalized. It came to light that there were unreserved seats available, empty reserved seats, and free seats with bags on them from CCTV footage that Virgin Trains released. Corbyn’s team tried to come up with an excuse for each reason; everyone had gone to the toilet and left their bags on the seat (there are only two toilets at each end of a carriage), and that the free seats were in First Class. While it can be difficult to find a seat on a busy train if you didn’t reserve one, the problem was the CCTV showed Corbyn going to sit down in a seat shortly after the video was taken. Now, one can dispute time stamps, but Corbyn eventually admitted there were seats, but he wanted two together so he could sit next to his wife. Maybe he needs a reality check here, because on planes, buses, and virtually all public transport you can never be guaranteed to sit with your partner or family unless it is booked ahead. It’s a simple case of first come first served hence why it’s called public transport. His credibility for being honest has gone in a day, and that of the integrity of his party. The sad thing is now they are claiming the released CCTV was a breach of privacy, but if someone makes false accusations, a company has a right to defend those claims and that’s all they did.
Movie stars don’t fare well either as the recent Johnny Depp and Amber Heard divorce case highlighted. Heard denied attempting to tarnish Depp’s reputation in order to secure a financial settlement, but who would have thought it would backfire? She may have gone to court with bruises, acquired witnesses (although one was over the phone?) and accused him of violence to gain sympathy as a battered wife, however, there seemed to be little sympathy for her. The ‘evidence’ appeared to be fabricated, the bruises disappeared overnight, independent witnesses saw nothing, and instead her reputation was torn apart as she was labeled a gold digger.
Maybe she had poor legal advice, but the divorce ended with a smaller than anticipated settlement and a declaration that Heard didn’t want any money (despite requesting excessive spousal support initially that was denied), and that all the money would go to charity. Perhaps the skeptics see that as a means to rescue what reputation she has left? Depp’s reputation may have been shaken slightly by the accusations and intense media reporting, but he was accused of something where there were no formal charges or verified official evidence. Calls to have his endorsements culled by those who believed he committed domestic violence were extreme, and Dior did not take action, after all you can’t find someone guilty of a crime without any proof. The truth is no one will know what really happened, but it’s doubtful Heard will secure any major roles in Hollywood after attempting to harm Depp’s reputation, and inadvertently destroying her own in the process. The futile attempts to say she hadn’t been responsible for the leaked texts and videos (one she made herself on her own phone) fell on deaf ears.
A reputation is priceless and can be lost in seconds, especially with social media reporting and sharing things said so quickly. People may delete tweets or social media profiles, but people know this and take screenshots, thus removing something from the web doesn’t always help. Things can also be misinterpreted, particularly from a cultural aspect, as offensive remarks get lost in translation. Each of us should never take our reputation for granted, while we should be free to stand up for our beliefs, we need to bear in mind how that action or what is said may affect others. How we behave, react, and what we say reflects the kind of person we are. Political correctness exists, and is necessary because we need a minimum standard for people to use as a guideline. The more I see, people are opposed to the PC brigade, and instead go around thrusting their opinions regardless of the consequences and ruining reputations without just cause or thought—how is that right or even remotely intelligent behavior for a human being?
On a personal note I have had to salvage my reputation on a number of occasions when I discovered envious colleagues and (former) friends had been deliberately tarnishing it in order to secure work for themselves. Naturally this left a bitter taste, but is that human nature—to damage a person’s reputation for their own personal gain? In the case of the above celebrities it was ego and arrogance, or possibly stupidity that led to their demise, and they paid a heavy price literally for their errors. No amount of money can buy back a good reputation—there is no price. A good reputation is only created from honesty and integrity, but can be destroyed in seconds with recklessness.