Roger Clemens and public relations

Well, public relations fans, Roger Clemens heads to the mound – or I guess the hill – next Wednesday. He is going to give sworn testimony to members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He’ll be answering questions about the illegal use of steroids in major league baseball.

Clemens for the past month or so has been waging a classic public relations battle. I’ve written about his 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace and his other actions to tell his story. He has been at it pretty much like any organization – private or public – facing a crisis.

And this week Clemens took a tactic right out of the corporate crisis management playbook. He personally visited members of the house committee.

An article by John Bresnahan on the political Web site says:

Corporations, trade associations and executive branch nominees have traditionally made the rounds of lawmakers before facing potentially hostile House or Senate panels, but they are part of the Washington establishment, where such gamesmanship is expected. For someone from outside the political world, such as Clemens, to engage in such a personal lobbying effort “is highly unusual, almost unprecedented, to say the least,” said a top House Democratic leadership aide.

Of course, now we get to the moment of truth. And truth matters here as it does in all public relations activities.

Brian McNamee, who was Clemens’s personal trainer, says he injected Clemens with steroids – and apparently – according to him – he kept some of the syringes in case he had to prove it.

Something tells me that Clemens is going to have a different view when he starts fielding the questions next week.

As I have said previously, I hope Clemens is telling the truth. And if so, you certainly have to give him and his advisers credit for an aggressive and effective public relations strategy. One that all of us can learn something from.

Yet, if for some reason Clemens strikes out – well, I guess there is always a seat available somewhere next to Pete Rose. But it won’t be in baseball’s hall of fame.


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