Five key elements to look for in his interview with Oprah Winfrey


In a crisis situation people want to know what happened, why it happened and what is going to be done to fix it.   Lance Armstrong has taped a long and apparently in-depth interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which he admits to the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).   If Armstrong is to begin to repair his reputation he most assuredly needed to open up to Winfrey and explain what happened, why it happened and what he will do to make amends.

Five essential elements to look for in the Armstrong interview are:

  1. Complete information – The only way Armstrong can hope to salvage any bit of credibility is to fully answer any and all questions.  There must be no equivocation or hiding behind legalese at this juncture. Some media reports say Armstrong made a “partial confession” to Winfrey.  If so, that will not sit well. The public is expecting an honest and direct testimony from Armstrong.  Anything less will further damage what is left of his reputation.
  2. Motivation for confession – Armstrong should explain, why, after more than a decade of abject defiance, he is now coming clean.  He has already been stripped of his Tour de France titles, lost his sponsors, and stepped down as chairman of his Livestrong Foundation. In fact, a confession could mean more legal and financial troubles for him. Armstrong should provide a clear explanation as to exactly what led to the Oprah interview.
  3. Repairing the damage – Armstrong has disgraced the Tour de France, USA Cycling and his sponsors, including the U.S. Postal Service and Livestrong. It is imperative that Armstrong address the damage he has caused and how he intends to repair it.  Writing checks is not the solution if he is to emerge from this crisis with an improved reputation. He should announce a concrete plan for how he will repair the damage – perhaps something along the lines of collaborating with USA Cycling to improve the system of PED detection.
  4. Contrition – What Armstrong says is important; How he says it will determine if anyone believes him.  Contrition is most effectively expressed by tone, body language and eye contact.  All three elements should naturally flow from Armstrong if he is to be convincing.
  5. Looking forward – Armstrong, after providing a full account of what happened and why, should explain in detail what he will be doing going forward and how he will regain the public’s trust.  His damaged reputation hurts the good efforts of Livestrong and any other meaningful projects on which has advocated or will advocate in the future.  We live in a remarkably forgiving society. Armstrong has an opportunity to rebuild his reputation and to again be both an opinion leader and an agent for positive social change.


The Armstrong interview, titled “Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The World Exclusive” will air in two parts on Winfrey’s OWN network.  Part one will be Thursday at 9 p.m. and part two will air Friday at 9 p.m.

Ramsey Poston is president of Tuckahoe Strategies a public relations firm that specializes in crisis communications.

Article first published as Lance Armstrong’s Chance to Save His Reputation on Technorati.




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