PR Lessons from... Lindsay Lohan?
It probably comes as no surprise that Lindsay Lohan is in a spot of bother with the law again. Her recent sentencing to 18 months in therapy and 30 days of community service comes as part of an agreement in which she pleaded “no contest” to misdemeanor reckless driving and providing false information to police.
This reminds me of a course I took at university on organizational communication, in which we once spent an entire lecture period pondering the greatest asset a company could possess. Several of my fellow classmates posited ‘the employees’ and ‘strong executive leadership’, yet as it turned out, the correct answer was its reputation – the intangible corporate value and faith that stakeholders place in an entity.
My initial reaction to Lindsay’s latest mishap is that, of course, she is doing irreparable damage to her reputation as a celebrity. However, at second glance, I think she might actually be very good at reputation management. Lindsay has constructed an image that is now founded almost entirely on being a rebel, a troublemaker, using her fame as a ‘get out of jail free’ card. People expect her to be a Hollywood bad girl, seamlessly moving from one fiasco to the next regardless of previous reprimands. Coupled with the knowledge that she is under the microscope of the media, the attention feeds her fan base, allowing them to live vicariously through her antics.
As PR pros we need to be aware of the duality of our responsibility around reputation management, managing the social expectations of the public on one hand, and building a unique identity of the entity on the other. We need to account for both what our clients want to be and what the people expect them to be. The good might not always be good and the bad might not always be bad, it’s a balancing act as we built the equity of a name.
What do you think? Is Lindsay a rebellious, misguided youth with an affinity for inebriated joy rides and a disdain for authority? Or a tactful manager of appearances, skillfully weaving her way through a slew of media shame to meet people’s expectations of her actress lifestyle? Food for thought. Either way, she’s come a long way down from “The Parent Trap.”