Ryan Lochte, Olympic Gold, and Public Perception- What can we learn from this Olympic moment?

Ryan Lochte public Instagram photo

“What people in the world think of you is really none of your business.”
― Martha Graham

The Answers To The Following Questions Probably Do Not Matter

Were U.S. Olympic swimmers Ryan Lochte, James Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz victims held up and robbed at gunpoint early Sunday morning in Rio de Janeiro?

Did 12-time Olympic medal winner Lochte throw his teammates under the bus when he left them in Rio de Janeiro and flew back to the United States?

Are Rio police officers telling the truth when they report that Lochte’s teammates, Bentz and Conger, have denied being robbery victims and said Lochte’s version of the event was not true?

I wish nothing but the very best for our Olympic athletes. I don’t know what did or didn’t happen in Rio. Having said that, it’s important to note that the answers to these questions don’t matter. In today’s real-time social media world, most people have already made up their mind about what they think happen.

Business, Reputation, and Perception in Today’s “Always On” World

Regardless of whether you’re a single entrepreneur or someone running a large company with thousands of employees, what you say and do each day is being shared, often in real-time, with the world. Social media and live streaming amplify the good with the bad. The business assets of “know”, “like” and “trust”, have never been more important.

Public video cameras and private GPS tracking on your smartphone are the ultimate evidence when it comes to what you do, who you do it with, and what the public is going to watch and listen to. We all need to do the right thing 24/7 if we want our clients, customers and general public to have an accurate perception of who we are and what we do. Sure, often times this is easier said than done. But doing the right thing is now, because of social, one of the most valuable business assets you can have.

Take Lochte as an example. His $5 to 10 million in endorsement contracts with Speedo, Ralph Lauren, and Airweave may now be in jeopardy. Because of this new dynamic of perception, I don’t care how his people spin this; I believe that millions of dollars of endorsement deals have all sunk to the bottom of the pool.

And when it comes to reputation, it’s being reported that many of his Olympic teammates, competitors and families are disappointed that the controversy surrounding these swimmers has misdirected the Olympic spotlight from other US athletes who are doing their best to proudly represent our country. Instead of talking about national heroes like the world’s greatest female gymnast, Simone Biles, the media and world are engrossed, at least for the time being, in who did or didn’t urinate, destroy property and look down the barrel of a gun at a Rio gas station.

Maybe Lochte and his Olympic teammates are victims of a robbery; maybe not. To the general public it doesn’t matter. Because of social and video the consumer will start to believe what they hear over and over again. In marketing, facts tell and stories sell. As a business owner, the public’s perception of the story you’re sharing is, for good or bad, what will dictate what the consumer ends up believing and buying.


“Life is about perception. Good or bad, how other people think and feel about you will affect your reputation, opportunity and success. Don’t unnecessarily complicate things. Just do the right thing.” -Mitch Jackson
When my kids were younger and something bad happened to them, I would remind them to ask themselves the following two questions (1) “What can I learn from this experience?” and (2) “What good can come out of this experience? ” By asking ourselves these two questions about the recent Lochte incident, I think we can all learn from his experience.

I’m a fan of Lochte and all the hard work he’s put into his sport, endorsements and charity work. I hope this ends up being only a short term issue. Having said that, I do think there’s a lesson for all of us to learn, especially in business, when it comes to dealing with the reality of public perception in today’s transparent society.

Carefully look and review the situation Lochte allowed himself to get in to and don’t let this happen to you, your team members, employees or business.

Always strive to do the right thing and lead by example. It’s not always easy but it is always necessary.
Jon Mitchell Jackson Orange County Personal Injury and Wrongful Death LawyerMitch Jackson is an award winning California Trial Lawyer and in 2013 was named one of California’s Litigation Lawyers of the Year (CLAY Award). In 2009 he was also recognized as one of Orange County’s Trial Lawyers of the Year (OCTLA). When he’s not in court trying cases, Mitch enjoys showing professionals, business owners and entrepreneurs how to use social media and live streaming to disrupt, hack and improve their professional relationships, businesses and practices. Connect with Mitch on Twitter @MitchJackson and Snapchat (CA_Lawyer) and at his law firm JacksonandWilson.com. Mitch’s live streaming efforts are shared at Streaming. Lawyer and his popular weekly talk show is TheShow.live

Do The Right Thing on Social MediaRelated Posts: Do The Right Thing In Your Social Media Community!

Author: Mitch Jackson

I'm a California trial lawyer trying to fix the world one client, cause, and digital interaction at a time.

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