Marion Jones: Prophylactic PR

So Marion Jones is using the same platform she achieved by cheating, to admit to cheating. In so doing, is she just making it harder for the rest of us to apologise? Or is there just not enough money in it for ordinary folk?

On watching the widely publicised video of her ‘confession’ I must admit I found it convincing, as did Web Ink Now, where I got the link. She does show sincere contrition, and touches all the bases: no one to blame but myself; I hurt the people around me; I’ve let you down; you have every right to me annoyed with me.

But on mentioning this to my partner the reaction was “Pah. It’s a PR stunt. Give her a few months and she’ll be onto a lucrative deal.”

There is some truth in there, plus an element of the automatic eye-rolling cynicism towards PR generally. If there’s a smell, it’s generally attributed to PR. What I find interesting is the automatic dismissal of a public apology.

There has been a spate of these of late. JetBlue in the US is a high-profile example, albeit a while back, in which the CEO apologised for people effectively being held captive on its planes (you can still see it online – now that’s a very long-lived apology!). In the UK, the cricketer Freddie Flintoff was very apologetic for being caught either clambering onto, or falling off, a pedalo in a state of inebriation, and slightly backward Big Brother cartoon character Jade Goody was profuse in her apologies after bullying Bollywood star Shilpa Shett on-screen. Only four days ago Pandora apologised for being unable to pursue a coherent business plan.

Are we becoming apology-resistant? Is there really a statute of limitation on apologies? Is the erosion of public faith extending from corporate regret to heartfelt public self-disapprobation?

If so, what room is PR allowing itself for manoeuvre? Perhaps a dignified silence would be more powerful. Oh, but then, of course… it might harm future book sales.

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3 thoughts on “Marion Jones: Prophylactic PR

  1. Dearest FG; know what I reckon on the apology thing? I seriously think we ‘sense’ whether there’s authenticity or not. Maybe not consciously, but instinctively.
    Cynics might say Marion’s grief was OTT, but my sense was one of her over-egging the cake (‘specially when viewed next to her previous adamant denials!!). I will say, tho, that when ‘Kramer’ Richards spilled his apologetic guts on TV, the delivery was too long and all wrong, but I felt that he meant it. As for cheating athletes, let’s hear Dida’s apology to UEFA for last week’s theatrics pls

  2. What really gauls is the fall from her ivory tower – the constant denials, divorcing her husband when he was caught cheating (with drugs from the same source!) and now this. Is she going to hand back the money from Nike endorsements made from perfomance-enhanced wins? Doubt it. Even more embarassing now she’s handed back her medals is that the person who finished second, and could get the Sydney 100m medal was also subsequently banned for drugs

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