PR and Media Lessons From Robert Downey Jr

Robert Downey JrJust in case you happen to find yourself in the midst of scandal or stewing over some not-so-great PR, look no further than Hollywood heroes for tips on walking tall even after you land yourself in hot water.

Robert Downey Jr. is this year’s comeback kid with a starring role in Iron Man. For the last 15 years or so, the only time you’d hear his name was in relation to a drug bust or yet another failed stint at rehab. Bloggers joked that the only costume you’d expect Downey Jr. to wear was the orange jumpsuit from county jail. Now we see him suited up as the intense billionaire genius Tony Stark and basking in his redemption.

Downey Jr. has learned to refer back to his troubled years with a hearty dose of wit and self-deprecating humor. I’m sure that his 4 years of sobriety have helped him move into a place of acceptance on this topic.

OK, so what does this middle aged Brat-Packer have to do with you?

Sometimes things happen in business that we can’t control. Your company may be involved in a sticky legal dispute, you may have shot your mouth off to a reporter without first engaging your brain, or you screwed up big time in some unforeseen way. And God-forbid you tee off a rabid blogger who goes to town on discrediting you publicly.

Either way you slice it, it’s not the most positive attention for your business. So what do you do next?

Damage control starts with you. Here are a few tips just in case you step in some PR doo-doo and need to recover your good name.

1. Own up to it.
No one wants finger pointing or accusations- that will make you look like a whiner. Take the Harry Truman approach and let people know that the buck stops with you. Your ego may need to take one for the team, but in the long run you’ll come out stronger. You want to acknowledge a problem and assure people that a solution is in the works, if not already enacted. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook incurred the wrath of many last year with his inaction and ended up all over the blogosphere because of it.

2. Chin Up.
Mary Poppins dishes out some good advice if you think about it. Chin up means you’re saying, “OK, I’m in the midst of a bunch of crap but I’m not going to let it get me down. I still have my dignity.” In this category, look at the spouses of high-profile people embedded in scandal. Name any political wife whose hubby has been caught with his pants down (literally). Save your emotions for the therapist’s couch, but in public stay strong. You can always write a tell-all memoir after the dust settles and make a fortune.

3. Do Something Good to Make Up For It
On whatever scale, part of owning up to wrongdoing needs to expressed in action. Maybe you need to send someone a nice card with a heartfelt apology. Or perhaps charity work is in store to regain your good name. Do something publicly to rewrite your story. People will remember your most recent acts so be sure to keep paying it forward with good deeds.

At some point, you’ll be able to look back and realize a big lesson was learned through this. The ups and downs are what make for strong leaders. Remember not to give up if something negative comes your way… ride it out with common sense and humility then keep making forward strides with your newfound wisdom.

Would you like to reprint this article? You may as long as you include this blurb in its entirety:
Nancy Marmolejo is a PR, media, and social networking strategist who teaches women entrepreneurs how to generate more money and attention by positioning themselves in the spotlight. An award winning business owner, Nancy is frequently quoted in the areas of business, creativity, and social networking. Get Nancy’s 7 part free audio course by visiting

Share this resource!

Share on Digg! Share on Delicious! Share on StumbleUpon! Share on Google Buzz! Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Pinterest
  • Web Success Diva

    Nancy — Girl, you rock! I'm honored to have worked on this project with such a Diva as yourself!

  • Sharon Bray-McPherso

    I was sent here by a tweet from @WebSuccessDiva. Great looking blog and the best of luck with it.

  • Mark Salinas

    Nice site! Very impressed!

    Mark Salinass last blog post..Hip Flexor and Fitness

  • Joan Schramm

    It's always so interesting to see how public figures handle totally negative press. Two examples really stand out for me, when I think of negative publicity.

    Two years ago, George Allen used the word "Macaca" to describe a volunteer from his opponent's campaign. The next two weeks he and his staff gave an object lesson in how NOT to handle negative publicity in a political campaign. Their bumbling efforts spelled death for Allen's senatorial aspirations.

    In 1982, Johnson and Johnson's prompt and public response to the Tylenol poisoning scare that swept the country ensured the brand's continued success. J&J's handling of the crisis should be studied by every marketing and PR guru in the world.

    Joan Schramms last blog post..Playing Small in a Big World — Get Your Talents Out There

  • Pamela Slim

    Hey Mamacita!

    I love Robert D-J (and any comeback kid really — Underdog is my hero!), but I really just wanted to say great design and felicidades on getting it done!

    You rock.



    Pamela Slims last blog post..Economy got you down? Get out of the fetal position and start seeing the pockets of gold around you

  • Angel Aviles-McClint

    I've always thought Robert Downey was a GREAT talent and so wondered why his tortured soul seemed to continually push him closer to his end. I hope that he is finally well, released from his demons. There is always a new day in my book. I've needed many myself…

    Lovin the new blog.

  • Pingback: Bad PR for Target, Good PR for H.O.P.E | Viva Visibility Blog()