I’ve often found it rather remarkable that more public figures, brands and corporations don’t understand the simple reality that, as a friend recently said to me, “It’s amazing what happens when you’re honest.”
We were recently reminded of such when former New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte received something that no Major League Baseball player painted with the stain of performance-enhancing drug use has ever received: post-retirement celebration.
Indeed, with a freshly minted plaque in Yankees Stadium’s Monument Park and his No. 46 being retired by the club for which he helped win 219 games and five World Series titles, Pettitte has become the first to break the “performance-enhancing drugs glass ceiling,” as some in the media have called it. And that is because before him, no baseball player who was directly or, in some cases, indirectly connected to the recent PED scandals has ever had his number retired.
The question then begs: Why would a player, who even if he had been clean might only be headed to the Hall of Very Good rather than immortal enshrinement in Cooperstown, N.Y., be so honored by the Yankees?
Because he was honest.
When we learned Pettitte had used PEDs via his inclusion in the infamous Mitchell Report, he was extraordinarily candid as to what he did and why he did it. While others — such as Roger Clemens, perhaps the greatest pitcher in baseball history who at this point has no chance at Hall of Fame enshrinement — to this day continue to deny it, Pettitte admitted his mistake, answered all questions, and apologized to anyone who mattered: fans, teammates, executives and reporters.
“In 2002 I was injured,” Pettitte immediately said in a statement. “I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my elbow. I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone. Though it was not against baseball rules, I was not comfortable with what I was doing, so I stopped.”
It’s a lesson that also applies to any corporation or brand.
Remember that nasty Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a few years back? You know, the one that ruined the Gulf Coast tourism and fishing industries for a few years. Not only did BP initially point fingers at everyone but itself, but the company’s then-CEO Tony Hayward was also caught telling BP execs, “What the hell did we do to deserve this?” Afterwards he told the Guardian that the oil spill was “relatively tiny.”
Today the Gulf has rebounded, and although it’s a distant memory for some, BP’s unwillingness to accept responsibility from the outset deeply tarnished its brand.
So what’s the point of all this? Whether you’re a public figure or a multinational corporation — being accountable and honest matters. And in the end, honest brands win.