Jamaica Gleaner /  

For the last two weeks, sports fans have watched with concern as the ongoing saga between Marlon Samuels and a popular TV host plays out on social media and in local entertainment circles. Marlon’s sensationalist behaviour aside, I believe there are some good lessons in reputation management that I’ve seen him employ over the past two weeks.

At the heart of the issue, for my esteemed readers who aren’t aware, is that Samuels was the subject of a music video by a popular Jamaican artist, Ishawna. While the buzz around Ishawna’s video increased, Marlon was accused of stalking by another entertainer, who had previously denied dating the cricketer.

That an established West Indies cricketer; an international brand in the sport who was best known for his achievements on the pitch, was embroiled in such unfavourable headlines was serious cause for concern.

Samuels’ achievements in cricket are noteworthy. He holds the esteemed distinction of being the only cricketer in history to have successive man of the match awards in a World T20 final, and his 85 runs scored in the last tournament is the highest score by any cricketer in World T20 finals history.

What is also admirable is that over the years he has shared his earnings with the less fortunate. I recall planning his last charity event when he handed $1.5m to the Jamaica Society for the Blind. Samuels called me days before the event to ask that I also reach out to a visually impaired young man who was unable to pay his tuition fees at Church’s Teacher’s College and whose plea for help was published in The STAR. He provided the young man with $350,000 in full tuition.

Given the serious nature of the accusation, it would not be prudent for Samuels to be silent. If unaddressed, he runs the risk of non-selection by Cricket West Indies, and alienating corporate Jamaica from lending support to his charitable causes in future.

While I doubt Samuels uses a PR practitioner based on his approach to his brand, I must say what he did in the days following the accusations is a good lesson in reputation management. From what I’ve observed, Samuels employed the following:

1. Consulted an attorney and a cease and desist order was issued.

2. Released a written statement refuting all claims.

3. Identified the person or group who would be most aware of the accusations and whose opinion of him is affected by those accusations. Then focused his efforts on repairing his reputation specifically with that group by defending himself against the claims.

4. And last, but never least, make time for the most important people in his life during what is likely a highly stressful time.

Let me hasten to add that not all accusations merit a response. Sometimes the best reaction is none, but not in this case given the immense popularity of both persons and the seriousness of the allegations. Samuels’ petty insinuations aside, in applying some humour to the situation in his responses, he did what Jamaicans often recommend; “tek bad tings mek laff”.

Samuels subsequently posted videos that show his humorous interactions with his children, his mom, his dogs, his outfits, all of which significantly humanised him to an audience of non-cricket fans who were previously unaware of his self-aggrandising persona. They largely enjoyed his comedic interchanges which suggests the rhetoric has shifted from the initial public concern.

What I think Samuels should not do, from a PR perspective, is to address this further as it could negatively impact his legacy. Most of his fanbase outside of Jamaica judge him largely based on his contribution to cricket and he likely has another two or so years left in that space. Thus, it should be cricket, and not his social media profile, that should matter to him most. One love.

– Tanya Lee is Marketer, Author and Sports Publicist.

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