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