It’s hard to believe the world we live in now compared to only a few months ago. While everyone is racing towards a return to normal, let’s face it, some things are permanently changed. The new reality is that your reputation is more important than ever. While everyone is hunkering down, internet usage is up nearly 70%. Unemployment is around 11%. More people are at home and consuming online content at an unprecedented rate.

Everything outside of the most essential in-person interactions have shifted online. Before anyone ever meets you they are likely to do an online search. Whether it’s for business or otherwise, what exists on page one of search results is likely to solidify others perception of you. The stakes are even higher for well-known individuals and companies. With every quote, tweet, or post, there is a steady flow of building and tearing down reputations. Let’s take a look at this week’s winners and losers.

Losers

1. Johnny Depp 

Johnny Depp “explicitly threatened to kill me many times,” said Amber Heard in written testimony provided to London’s High Court. In what has become a litigious circus with accusations of violence, drug abuse, destruction of property, and threats. Depp is suing the publisher of the Sun – News Group Newspapers (NGN) – and editor Dan Wootton, over a 2018 article that called Depp a “wife beater”. The actor has repeatedly denied any instances of physical abuse. Here are some of the lowlights of what has been alleged in court:

  • One of Heard’s friends defecated in Depp’s bed in the following days after an argument
  • Depp sliced off the top of his finger in an argument and wrote messages in blood on the bathroom wall
  • Depp held Heard’s dog out of the window of a moving car
  • Heard punched Depp in the face after he threatened her sister
  • Depp head-butted and slapped Heard

“Hoax is probably the best word one could use because the allegations, all of the allegations, are patently untrue,” Depp testified. The actor has admitted to frequent drug and alcohol abuse but denies any physical abuse.

It remains to be seen what the court will decide, and how and if any of this will affect Depp’s acting future. It sadly seems that the public is already conditioned  to reprehensible behavior from Hollywood actors. The jury is out.

Takeaway: The courts operate on presumed innocence, but when it comes to destroying a reputation you could say “perception is 9/10ths of the law.”

2. Goya

Ok so a few things here. Federal ethics regulations prohibit any employee from endorsing “any product, service or enterprise.” So why is Ivanka Trump holding a can of black beans like she’s a Price is Right model? The world wants to know. Goya is now facing backlash over the CEO endorsing Trump at a White House visit last week and consumers of the enormously popular brand are calling for boycotts following effusive praise from Goya CEO Robert Unanue:

“We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder… and so we have an incredible builder, and we pray — we pray for our leadership, our president, and we pray for our country that we will continue to prosper and to grow.”

The praise comes at a time when Hispanics are 6 times more likely to die from Covid-19, and while four out of ten hispanics said they experienced discrimination before the outbreak.

Takeaway: As the leader of a company, personal statements will not only be judged by employees but also consumers. When a CEO’s public remarks don’t align with either, it’s a good signal to reverse course before permanent damage to a reputation occurs. And while every American should be free to express their political beliefs, in this climate, the business risk-reward of statements like these needs to be seriously weighed.

Winners

1. NBA 

So far, so good. In what has become one of the most ambitious reopenings since the pandemic hit, the NBA so far has become the blueprint for other organizations to follow. While two players have tested positive during the initial arrival window, and scores of others who are not currently in the bubble, so far the experiment has been a success.

The concerns remain. While NBA players are subject to remain inside the Disney resort, staffers and journalists are free to move unrestricted between the bubble and the outside world. Whether the NBA will be able to finish the season remains to be seen, as one COVID-19 case inside the bubble could create a domino effect and quickly put an end to an already strange season.

Takeaways: The last few months have seen varying strategies for reopening during a pandemic. Most have not taken the necessary precautions to have a chance for success. When it comes to protecting your reputation during a pandemic, it begins with protecting your employees. So far, it seems that the NBA has done so more thoughtfully than any of the other major sports leagues.

2. Dave Chapelle 

To fully appreciate Dave Chapelle, take a moment and watch the above video. The court of public opinion is harsh and unforgiving, and as the lights become brighter for our celebrities, so does the scrutiny. In a week that saw enormous backlash for Kanye West’s recent statements about Harriet Tubman, the internet mob was quick to grab their torches and pitchforks. While the statements were plainly offensive and ill-advised, it did bring up the larger question of celebrity and mental health.

Dave Chapelle is no stranger to how the media reacts to “bizarre” behavior. In 2005, the comedian was at the top of his game before abruptly walking away from a third season of his hit show and $50 million dollars. He then packed his bags and took flight to Africa to escape from the very celebrity he created. The news cycle at the time could think of no other way to describe the comedian as “crazy.”

It’s easy to be dismissive and judgmental of  celebrity. It’s often punching up to things we don’t have. In the case of mental health however, it becomes punching down to an issue which affects nearly 1 in 5 of all Americans. Chapelle got it right here. Showing compassion and empathy is what’s needed.

Takeaway: The media doesn’t always get it right. Going against the grain is never easy and takes courage. Standing up for an important issue brings respect and lifts your reputation along with it.