When news leaked in December that Major League Baseball was investigating a positive test result showing elevated levels of testosterone in their seemingly clean National League MVP it was a shock to all fans and a punch in the gut to the rising star.  This week, baseball arbitrators made a historic decision by clearing Braun’s name and lifting the 50-game ban levied upon him.

While the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder can now proceed with his career, his reputation is still somewhat tainted by the allegations. However, the scenario could have been much worse if Braun hadn’t been prepared. Spending three months awaiting the decision, Braun took some important steps to avoid tainting his image further, which can be useful to others caught in the middle of a personal brand controversy.

1.       Stick to your story, but don’t say too much.

Braun never wavered from his innocent plea and stuck to his mandated position not to comment on the details of the case. This worked in his favor as it helped the public avoid rushing to judgment. If news breaks that attacks your personal brand, consider the ‘no comment’ approach until you have thought through the impact of your words. When you do make a statement, take time to craft it to sound firm, confident and humble. Stay out of the spotlight and don’t stir things up until you have all evidence to prove your position; basic PR101 on this one.

2.       Rally support.

Braun benefited from the backing of his organization, his past reputation as a positive member of his community and a few famous friends. It doesn’t hurt having NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers in your corner. If you find yourself in the cross-hairs, be sure to call upon your best assets to back you up and help validate your position of honest character. Aligning yourself with well-respected people makes you appear to share equal values.

3.       Do not attack the opposition.

Braun declared that there were unique circumstances around his testing scenario. He also called the result of his test, ‘BS’, but he never directly bad-mouthed MLB: likely a good plan considering the organization is his employer and helps ensure he’ll receive the $140 million+ he’s owed over his career. Getting angry or defensive makes you look guilty even if you aren’t. Having a clean, calculated and evidence driven defense through more formal channels is a far better approach than lashing out in fear of what a false accusation can do to your personal brand.

4.       Be grateful.

Thank your supporters. Thank those that are not rushing to ostracize you. Thank the press for respecting your privacy. If your name is finally cleared- thank everyone!

5.       Keep it Positive

Braun received plenty of media backlash when the news broke.  Although this image terrorizing will likely continue amongst those that feel Braun got away with cheating, the court of justice has spoken in his favor. What Braun did right was his avoidance of engaging with negative voices. Whether it is a Tweet, blog post, article or message board comment there is likely more damage to be done by trying to fight back against ‘trolls’ who get their kicks tarnishing reputations of others. To recognize their opinion validates their voice. Do not provide your enemies with the fuel to keep the controversy burning. Focus on the positive.

Ryan Braun arrived at Spring Training today with a fresh start. He faced the darkest scenario an athlete can and prevailed. Braun has worked his entire life to build a reputation of strong, moral and generous character. He has made ample proclamations about his respect for his profession and disgust of cheaters. By standing for something in advance, he was able to bring the public on his side. By following the steps above, he was able to keep them there until his name was cleared.

Watch Braun's impressive statement following the decision here
 
 
1.       Be Opportunistic

As a brand consultant, it is your role to enhance, empower and grow the influence of your client’s identity in the marketplace. You’ve been hired to offer an outsiders perspective and put your resources to use. If you’re doing your job well, you should be looking to add value to your client relationships on a daily basis. Read an article that might benefit the client? Send it over. Meet a key industry contact at a conference? Make the introduction. Hear of a competitive strategy that might impact the sales forecast? Share the insight. Information, understanding, contacts and perspective are your products. The regular sharing of smaller ideas can lead to big projects. Always be looking for new assets you can assemble and dispense and you’ll become indispensable to clients.

2.      Really Care

As a consultant you are often in the relationship with your client alone. This makes consulting a highly intimate endeavor that requires a personal touch to succeed. The best thing a consultant can do for themself is to care about the person on the other end of the table. Not just care because they are writing checks, but care because they are a human being, deserving of respect. Get to know your client to the degree that they are comfortable with. Look for signs: Do they talk about their family? Do they talk about hobbies? Those are windows to connect. A friendly banter is encouraged. Avoid overtly personal confessions or sharing, but open up enough to let them see you as someone they would be able to spend time with talking about things other than work. If your conversations with clients aren’t always focused on handling business, you’ll likely get even more business accomplished. A consulting colleague of mine lives by the mantra, “Relationships Still Matter”. The phrase pays.

3.       Offer Honesty

Being hired to build, analyze or promote an entrepreneurs' brand is one of the toughest jobs in marketing. It is crucial to remember that each time you engage an entrepreneur regarding their business it is like talking to a parent about their child. A business is very much like a baby and the owner is invested in a similar fashion; their livelihood is tied to its success. Thus it is important to consider the sensitivity of your client when offering any form of advice, strategy or direction. Simultaneously, you also have a job to do. You’ve been hired to offer your expertise and open up new avenues for thinking about this client’s brand. Their product or service is in need of your honest opinion. There is a fine line between telling a client what they are doing is wrong/ineffective and offering constructive criticism along with solutions/ideas that can take the brand to the next level. The effective marketing consultant is capable of balancing between the brutal truth, which will allow for the right decisions to be made around the profitability of the business, and offending commentary. A consultant must have conviction and passion for the solutions they are selling… even if it takes a great deal of convincing to get the client to come around. In the end the client will have nothing to say besides thank you as their brand flourishes.