PR Nightmare in Rio

Remember when the U.S. mens olympic swim team won 33 medals last summer?

Me either.

There’s no time to recognize hard work and achievement when one of the biggest scandals of the summer is taking place.

Ryan Lochte, an olympic champion, told an untrue story of being held at gun point during his olympic games in Rio. After surveillance videos, and his teammates stories, prove his tale untrue, we watched a PR crisis play out before our eyes.


It seemed that everything was lining up for Lochte. His endorsements with  Speedo USA, Polo, and Syneron-Candela were worth millions, and his future in the 2020 olympic games looked bright. His teammates and him, appeared unstoppable.

So, the question from the world to Lochte was “why”? “Why lie”?

We all know that in today’s day in age, lying does not work. With today’s technology, dishonesty and exaggeration, cannot get you out of a situation. There will always be evidence in the truth. If the video/camera/tweet/blog doesn’t come out one day, it will come out the next.

The most confusing part of this situation was that Lochte created this problem himself. What urged him to over exaggerate the story so greatly? Was it in efforts to hide a night of partying and bad decisions? Now, not only is Lochte a partier, but he is a liar too. It seems that with a few short statements, Lochte proved himself, and his words invalid.

We’ve all seen athletes, politicians, and celebrities, be faced with a scandal that will take an entire team to be able to recover from. Although, the public eye is harsh, it is also forgiving. Micheal Phelps (Lochte’s teammate), proved that to be true after his 2009 marijuana scandal and his 2014 DUI.

Lochte and his team took numerous financial hits through his endorsements. His poor judgment on words cost him millions! More than the money, his entire personal brand has been tarnished. In a place where we look up to athletes as leaders, personal branding is vital to your career.

 This is a PR lesson, that you should not speak while emotions are running high, or shortly after the incident has occurred. There is nothing wrong with taking time before you speak. A few words one day can be the end of your career the next.

In an interview on NBC, when asked why he decided to lie, Lochte said,

“I don’t know why. You know, it was still hours after the incident happened. I was still intoxicated. I was still under that influence. If I hadn’t exaggerated the story or told the entire story none of this would have happened. I was coming from the France house, I was highly intoxicated and I made immature accusations. If I had not done that, none of this would have happened.”

Lochte, seeming humbled and sincere with his response, is a efficient way to make amends with the public. We all make mistakes, we all exaggerate stories, we all have bad nights, we all say the wrong things at the wrong time. The repercussions for us, although can be severe, are not seen by the world. They are not watched and monitored with people staring at a screen, waiting for us to mess up. The human part of me, wants to forgive the man, realize that he was having a fun night, remember moments where I have fibbed to cover my own reputation. But, the PR part of me is less forgiving. The PR part of me sees these statements as a tiny stepping stone in proving his integrity. How long will it take to make him a valid leader rather than just a swimmer?


Lochte has recently starred on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars. This extra air time, which shows Lochte in a completely new scene, will hopefully shed a positive light on the olympic swimmer, or at least work as a distraction from the events that took place this past summer.

A short two months after the scandal and Lochte’s PR brand is improving. Although a challenge this incident is something that can be recovered from.



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