Just call me your psychic friend.
When the Eliot Spitzer scandal broke, I wrote a column called, “Here’s How It’s Gonna Happen” (March 27, 2008), where I predicted that despite Client 9’s “activities” while he represented us, he would be welcomed back somewhere. That place may be as New York state comptroller.
I also saw a future with the face and words of Ashley Dupre splashed all over it in the form of an album, memoir or made-for-TV movie. I think getting her own weekly advice column in a major daily newspaper comes pretty close.
I guess once you’ve had a taste of the limelight—even in a negative way—some people just can’t walk away. Hence the reason the former call girl is working for the paper that put her on its cover, naked, cupping her breasts with the headline: BAD GIRL. Clearly, Dupre does not hold a grudge.
I can’t blame her for accepting a plum columnist job at a national tabloid, but if she really wanted the fresh start she claims, I’d think that she’d move to Wyoming, change her name and get a job as a secretary.
Perhaps some might consider that running away, and cite the adage that when you get wherever you’re going, you’re still there. Maybe Dupre is right to try to recover from scandal by staying put and reinventing herself before everyone’s eyes.
I’m not planning on any “misadventures” any time soon, but just in case, I’d like to be prepared, so I turned to New York public relations veteran, Patricia Gitt. She is also author of the novel CEO, whose main character has to do a lot of corporate image enhancing to fend off damaging publicity about how she got her job.
Together we figured out a plan of action:
1. Determine your goals.
A) If you want to capitalize on your newfound fame/infamy, act as though whatever questionable thing you did is the obvious prerequisite for your next move. In Ashley’s case, being a prostitute qualified her to have a deep understanding of interpersonal relationships. (Well, someone bought into that and gave her a job.)
B) If you want to squelch negative publicity, own up to your deed promptly, like David Letterman. Once you’ve put your side of the story out there, move on.
C) If you want to rebuild your reputation and a solid future, apologize without delay. Then, as Spitzer did in his resignation speech, let everyone know you’re down, but not out: “Our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
2. Focus your energy on the things you can change, then design a plan to take you beyond the scandal. Think The Good Wife. Julianna Marguiles’ character advised, “Get up every day, get dressed, put on make-up…” then return to your career and be too busy working to notice your colleagues watching replays of the embarrassing incident on the Internet.
3. Build new, positive connections that support your efforts to head in a productive direction. Angelina Jolie left Hollywood and started hanging out in the Third World. She then began surrounding herself with the beauty and innocence of children, as well as the golden Brad Pitt. Her life as a scary, erratic, blood-vial-wearing sex maniac on the arm of creepy Billy Bob Thornton is now a distant memory.
So, if back in ’09 you made a personal or professional gaffe that you want to put behind you, there are ways to begin anew. Just ask Ashley.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl’s debut novel, Fat Chick, from The Vineyard Press, is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
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