South African lifestyle and entertainment blog

Learn From Lance Armstrong’s Mistakes

by Donna Rachelson

There are important personal branding lessons to take from Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace.

Lance Armstrong is a household name and one of the world’s most well-known cyclists. Over the past few weeks, amid the doping scandal, his personal brand has suffered serious damage. We can learn some important truths from Armstrong and other sportsmen whose careers have been affected by controversy.

I think of Michael Phelps as an example of a sportsman who has made a career-threatening mistake, but found a way to salvage his brand, despite the damage done.

It’s said that, “Honesty is the best policy” and Phelps proved this is true when he admitted that he’d smoked marijuana and apologised for his behaviour. He came clean and was forgiven by the majority of people. His career has continued to soar and he’s gone on to become the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 22 medals to his name. He is generally known for his successes, not his mistakes.

When it comes to personal branding, everything counts. Unfortunately, however, it’s harder to build trust than it is to break it down. That’s why it’s important to take action as soon as your personal brand may be compromised. It can take years to build a powerful brand, but even longer to rebuild a brand that has suffered trust damage.

Reputation is the balance between who you say you are, how people experience you and what other people say about you. Any gaps in these elements will result in issues when it comes to managing your personal reputation. Reputation has to be nurtured and protected with your life.

Here are four tips we can take from sporting icons in terms of how to weather a storm:

1.      Honesty is critical. Although telling the truth can be hard, having your career fall apart like a house of cards if lies come to light is harder. Authenticity is a key element of successful personal brands.

2.      If you make a mistake, come clean upfront. Deal with the issue as soon as possible rather than leaving a problem to grow. Apologise for what you have done as soon as you can.

3.      Do your best to fix the situation. Look for ways to make up for your error and reverse your mistake.

4.      Remember: we all mess up from time to time. It’s important to manage our mistakes as best we can.

About Donna Rachelson Rachelson is a branding and marketing specialist who uses her passion and 25 years of experience in strategy, marketing and change management to empower people and teams to achieve breakthrough results.
She is the founder of Branding & Marketing YOU. The company offers keynote presentations, workshops, strategic marketing consulting, coaching and support services. She is also the author of the best-selling book Branding & Marketing YOU, the first South African based personal branding and marketing book.
For more information on Rachelson or Branding & Marketing YOU, visit

Article written by:

Richmond Sajini is a musician and media entrepreneur in the public relations, television, radio and retail spaces in South Africa. He studied Public Relations and Communication at the University of Johannesburg and has worked on brands such as Coca Cola, Tsogo Sun, Heineken as well as the South African National Roads Agency. He has been told to shut up many times by people who don’t understand that he is in love with the sound of his own voice. For this reason he decided to start his own blog where he would share his thoughts and experiences without inhibition. Visit his blog, and follow him on Twitter @richmondsajini.


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