PAUL HOLMES: Kobe Bryant would be well advised to save his best spin moves for the basketball court

One of the things about spin is that it should not be too transparent.

One of the things about spin is that it should not be too transparent.

Students of the art will remember securities fraudster Michael Milken taking disadvantaged kids to baseball games in an obvious - and entirely unconvincing - attempt to demonstrate that greed was not the only thing that mattered in his life. It was a crass gesture, dismissed (for once, quite rightly) as an obvious PR ploy. Which brings us to the case of Kobe Bryant, whose every move since he was indicted on sexual assault charges appears to have been carefully scripted - so carefully, that it's impossible to determine if his post-indictment comments and actions are sincere or simply spin. First, there was the press conference, at which Kobe appeared with his wife at his side, their hands clasped in a gesture designed to demonstrate for the cameras that she has forgiven him. (Subtext: if she has, so should we.) Such scenes have become de rigueur for public figures accused of adultery, domestic violence, and worse, so they've lost some of their ability to induce queasiness, but they still have me (the cynic that I am) imagining the scene before the press conference: "Honey, if I lose all of those lucrative endorsement contracts, your gravy train comes to a screeching halt too. So swallow what's left of your pride and just sit there looking at me adoringly while I explain why I screwed around on you. Get it right, and I'll buy you the biggest damn ring you ever saw." Kobe hit all the right notes: "I'm a man just like everybody else," "I love my wife so much," and, "We don't want to try the case in the press"- an expression of intent that might have been more convincing had it not been delivered at a press conference. A few hours later, his attorney, Pamela Robillard Mackey, announced a similar reluctance, before accusing the Eagle County, CO sheriff and district attorney of precisely that offense, a sleight of hand she probably had to try, even though it's hard to remember any major case in which the prosecutors appeared so reticent to stand in front of the TV cameras. If Mackey was serious, of course, she could have gone to the judge with her charges of prosecutorial misconduct, rather than announcing them to the media. But the leaks of the next few days - early attempts to put the victim on trial - made it clear that using the press will be central to the Bryant defense. The trouble for Bryant is that the public has seen all this before. They're savvy enough to know when they are being spun. His PR team is going to have to come up with something new if they want to save their client's reputation.
  • Paul Holmes has spent the past 16 years writing about the PR business for publications including PRWeek, Inside PR, and Reputation Management. He is currently president of The Holmes Group and editor of www.holmesreport.com.

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