by Steve Adubato, PhD

I was recently on the TODAY Show to answer the following question; “How can Casey Anthony make money as an entrepreneur after the much-publicized not guilty verdict in the murder case of her 2-year-old child?” You may ask what this question has to do with communication and succeeding in the marketplace. Consider the following.

For many Americans, Casey Anthony’s verbal and non-verbal communication as well as our perception of her overall actions after her child died has created a very negative impression of her. For the purpose of this column, her guilt or innocence is not the issue (I wasn’t on that jury and neither were you.), but rather, the question of what exactly makes up your public “brand”.

My contention has always been that most will not buy your product or services if they don’t actually like you, which is the basic premise of my book, “You Are the Brand”. You have to be someone who potential customers and clients relate to and ultimately achieve some degree of empathy for. But, when it comes to Casey Anthony, this couldn’t be further from the truth. However, there is a very good chance she is going to make a big chunk of money by signing a book deal with a huge advance, doing an exclusive paid television interview, doing some so-called reality TV show, or whatever else the market bears. Yet, it would be a serious mistake for any of us to confuse short-term immediate profiteering in the marketplace of so-called “celebrity” with what we must do as professionals on a daily basis to truly build our brand.

Bottom line? Your reputation is really all you have and once it is trashed, it is very difficult to get it back. If your brand reputation doesn’t matter to you, and you’ve done something terrible, it’s your right to cash in on it. It’s called capitalism. But since few, if any of us, will ever deal with Casey Anthony-type branding or image issues, here are some tips and tools we can follow when and if public opinion or market voices begin to turn against you:

  • Fight the urge to deflect, point fingers or blame others. Casey Anthony did all of those things. She blamed her father, her mother, a fictitious nanny. Again, this isn’t about guilt or innocence, but rather about lessons of public communication when your back is against the wall. 
  • Never lie, particularly to law enforcement authorities, which again, Casey Anthony did. I’m not a fan of the invoking the Fifth Amendment, which says you have the right to remain silent in an effort not to incriminate yourself. Sure, it’s your legal right, but don’t kid yourself, in most cases it screams out GUILTY. However, invoking the Fifth is still always better than engaging in dishonest or deceptive with cops or prosecutors. 
  • We all understand the temptation of Casey Anthony to cash in, however, if she had any desire to restore a semblance of credibility and brand equity, one is better off resisting such an urge. There is something to be said for going undercover, being silent and not being so visible, particularly when your reputation is in tatters. Sometimes being quiet and laying low communicates a more powerful and positive message than yelling from the rooftops.
  • Finally, consider this. Unless I missed it, Casey Anthony never apologized to anyone for her inexplicable actions surrounding the death of her daughter. Remember, she didn’t report her child missing for a month. This isn’t about guilt or innocence. It’s about an unconscionable act that communicates a degree of callousness and insensitivity that most of us—particularly parents—can’t comprehend. Apologizing in a genuine and honest fashion no matter the circumstances remains one of the most effective tools in your communication arsenal.