We have seen England and Durham cricketer, Ben Stokes cleared of affray today. In the view of the law, he is innocent. However, as was immediately be pointed out by Guardian journalist, Martha Kelner, he has a long battle ahead to restore his reputation.
So, in PR terms, what should Team Stokes be saying to their man to speed that process along?
The CIPR defines reputation as being driven by what you do, what you way and what others say about you. Stokes cannot do much about the last one at present, but he can certainly focus on getting the first two in order.
Temper and Passion are not the same thing
The best performers seem to instinctively know how to channel passion, pride in the shirt and all the other clichés into their work without ever losing control. Stokes may find value in working with a sports psychologist to channel his energies in the right way.
Focus on the family and the pitch
Being honest about any behavioural problems is vital. Stokes should build an authenticity into his lifestyle by seeking advice and making it clear that he is going to concentrate on the things that matter most – his family and his work. A good example, although dealing with a much more long term problem, would appear to be Ant McPartlin, who has taken a complete break from TV work while he recovers.
Don’t rush into any charity deals or media interviews
Stokes may be tempted to rush into additional charity or PR activities to swing opinion back his way. This can be a mistake. No one likes an opportunist, so some pause in his public goodwill activities, stepping out of the limelight, is probably a good idea. When some dust has settled, consider any approaches carefully to ensure they are meaningful and bring more benefit to the charity than the individual.
Ben Stokes should become very boring on social media
All sports stars have social media. Now is the time to be very boring indeed and keep focused more than ever on bland tweets about the cricket. And as far as mainstream media is concerned, boring never makes for good copy.
Dust off the skeletons in the cupboard
As this story subsides, the media will be looking for fresh meat. If Ben Stokes has any skeletons in the cupboard, now is the time to bring them out and dust them off. His communications advisers can only plan effectively if they know all the risks lurking in his past behaviour. There might not be any. If so, great. But any PR plan starts with an honest risk analysis.