The former press secretary’s stunt enraged some viewers. Here’s the right way to rehab your image, according to experts
Old Spice’s image revamp is rubbing some people the wrong way.
Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary whose claims about the size of President Trump’s inaugural crowd size helped propel him to stardom, wheeled out a Melissa McCarthy-style mobile podium at Sunday’s Emmys to declare, “This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period.”
While some applauded his appearance — the raucous crowd of celebs in attendance, for example — plenty of others were outraged at Spicer suddenly being in on the joke. “I’m not ready to laugh ‘with’ Sean Spicer,” tweeted “Scrubs” alum Zach Braff. Ex-Jeb Bush spokesman Tim Miller also weighed in, tweeting, “I know people who were offered opportunities to lie for Donald Trump and quietly declined. Harvard & The Emmys calling the wrong folks.”
Also read: Sean Spicer just stole the Emmys
The ex-RNC spokesman later told the New York Times he regretted upbraiding reporters for their accurate reports on crowd size a day after his boss was sworn in. “Of course I do, absolutely,” Spicer told the paper Monday morning.
As he maps his next act, which already includes a visiting fellowship at Harvard University and a slot on the paid speaking circuit, we asked experts: What’s the best way to reinvent yourself after an image-bruising incident or career move, and how is Spicer doing so far?
Branding and marketing strategist Karen Tiber Leland prescribes a three-step reinvention formula that starts with taking responsibility and apologizing. “It’s amazing how many people don’t do that or resist doing that for a long time,” Leland said. She cites United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, whose initial failure to apologize for a passenger being forcibly dragged down the aisle of an aircraft triggered a PR nightmare.
— Emily Longeretta (@emilylongeretta) September 18, 2017
The next step is to make amends and take whatever corrective action possible, Leland told Moneyish. Last, make a promise for the future in terms of how you plan to behave moving forward. (An optional fourth step, she added, is to make sure you act consistently with that promise: “People do the first three, and then they go back and do the same behavior all over again — which only makes it worse.”)
Leland, author of the book “The Brand Mapping Strategy,” summoned a lower-profile example from her professional experience: A senior software executive tarred himself as unreliable after missing a key deadline and costing the company business. But instead of getting defensive, she said, he took responsibility and apologized to colleagues who were directly impacted, developed an action plan to rectify the situation as best he could, and put safeguards in place to prevent future such predicaments.
Also read: Sean Spicer just quit. Should you be next?
Others think there’s plenty to learn from Spicer’s Emmys appearance. While pop culture expert and TV host Jawn Murray also recommended you take ownership of the mistake, apologize to anyone directly affected, and find a positive way to move on, he added that Spicer’s stab at humor is “the best that he can do considering the circumstances.” “In his situation, if he came out and … took ownership for his poor decisions, it would immediately put him in conflict with this administration,” he told Moneyish. “If you’re trying to move onto a positive place in your professional career, you don’t want to be in a feud with your former boss publicly.”
Alan Siegel, president and CEO of the branding consultancy Siegelvision, said the best remedy was “being human, being authentic, having a sense of humor — not being super critical and blaming other people, but (having) an intelligent explanation of what’s going on in your career.” While Spicer is a public figure in an unusual situation, he said, “having a sense of humor is a good thing” for any image-tarnished person in a job interview.
Ultimately, the erstwhile press secretary’s gamble was “a pretty good strategy,” Siegel argued. “He was doing the best he can; he was in an untenable situation with a person who spontaneously creates disorder and confusion,” he told Moneyish of Spicer’s exit. “(He) did it until it became untenable, and he got out with dignity.”
“He’s resurrecting his career without creating furor and playing to the media. I don’t think he’s dishonest, I really don’t — I think he’s a decent person put in an untenable situation,” Siegel added. “I commend him.”
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