Stacy Bettison

Stacy L. Bettison is a communications strategist and owner of Bettison Consulting LLC. Stacy focuses on crisis communications, reputation management and media relations. She is also a licensed attorney and has practiced law in both Chicago and Minneapolis.

Posts about Crime

From the shadows of doping: How Livestrong and Lance are moving on

Posted by: Stacy Bettison Updated: December 4, 2012 - 6:03 AM
The shadows of the cycling scandal continue to loom. Three days ago, the International Cycling Union (UCI) appointed a three-member panel to investigate and report by June what role the UCI, the sport’s governing body, itself played in the scandal. 
Today, in Lausanne, Switzerland, the International Olympic Committee will consider, among other scandal-related questions, whether to strip Lance Armstrong of the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Saving Livestrong. Shortly after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s 1000-page report on Armstrong became public in October, the Livestrong organization stepped out quickly to save itself while its iconic namesake disastrously fell from grace. In the days and weeks since, the organization has walked a very challenging line of affirming the incredible contribution and inspiration of Lance Armstrong as a cancer survivor and advocate, while creating distance from Lance and his now stained cycling career. The organization has done a good job in a very messy situation.
Here’s some of what they’ve done, externally, to protect the Livestrong brand and keep the organization moving forward:
·         After Lance resigned as chairman of the board on October 17, CEO Doug Ulman did an interview on NPR, affirming its desire to have Armstrong continue to be involved in the work of the organization. Said the CEO, "He's our founder. He's been the inspiration for our work for so many years.” Mr. Ulman handled tough questions exceedingly well, focusing on the organization’s key message of continuing the mission to support and serve people living with cancer.
·         The organization changed its name from The Lance Armstrong Foundation and to the Livestrong Foundation.
·         When Lance fully resigned from the board in mid-November, the foundation’s new board chairman, Jeff Garvey, said this:
Lance Armstrong has chosen to voluntarily resign from the Board of Directors of the Livestrong Foundation to spare the organization any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding his cycling career. . . .  We are deeply grateful to Lance for creating a cause that has served millions of cancer survivors and their families.
·         Livestrong spokeswoman Katherine McLane said Armstrong remains as the charity’s “founder and inspiration and our biggest donor.”
·         The Livestrong Foundation website underwent changes. Among them, the “Our Founder” page features Lance’s cancer diagnosis and his many contributions to the cause. Gone is any mention of his cycling career.
Ironmans and Defiance. For Lance, according to his personal website, he appears to knocking off an Ironman here and there (five in 2012, so far, to be exact), and participating in other triathlon events. His website still has photos from the Tour de France¸ with a good number of shots of his long-held race number (#1). He describes himself on Twitter as “Raising my 5 kids. Fighting Cancer. Swim, bike, run and golf whenever I can.” A couple of weeks ago, Lance posted a picture of himself on Twitter lounging on his couch, surrounded by his seven yellow jerseys. Comments abounded: Lance is in denial; he’s defiant; he’s arrogant.
Yes, that all may be true: perhaps he is in denial, defiant and arrogant.
Here’s another truth—Lance is an incredible athlete. Ultimately, it was his athletic ability, drive and commitment to winning that fueled his fight against cancer, and inspired him to help others. His legacy, even with the doping scandal, will always include the fact that he has inspired and helped millions of people diagnosed with cancer. Critics notwithstanding, there is little denying that he has done vast amounts of good, and his athleticism contributed to that.
I don’t know Lance personally, but I’m guessing this is also true: While he may be in denial, defiant and arrogant, there is a deep reservoir of good in Lance Armstrong. To go through a cancer diagnosis like he did, and turn it into a positive, sweeping movement like he has, comes from a place of good. Though critics may say that Armstrong’s good deeds were just a devious way to deflect attention from his misdeeds, I question whether deceitful ulterior motives would have sustained the powerful momentum of what Livestrong has become. No doubt, Lance Armstrong earned goodwill because of Livestrong, but that’s what happens when you do good—you are in the good graces of many, because you have done right for so many. 
Lots of people are waiting to see the innate good and undeniably human side of Lance, wondering when the 60 Minutes exclusive mea culpa will air. I’m not sure what he’s waiting for, but I’m guessing there is some calculating, strategic reason—the passage of time, to see if the arbitration of team director Johan Bruyneel goes forward (in which Armstrong may be subpoenaed), or the UCI’s report in June (assuming the UCI is blameworthy).
Forgiveness will be fast. The general public will be quick to forgive. And while the internet, tell-all memoirs and future Tours de France make it impossible to forget, forgiveness will come fast. There may be those that were so affected by Lance’s actions that they can never forgive, and that’s understandable. But most people want to see the good in others, and most people would rather forgive than forever hold a grudge.
To be human is to be full of contradictions. We all possess both good and bad, and we have all erred—some more than others. If all or even some of the allegations are true, Lance erred a lot. These errors, these shadows, will always lurk. But when Lance admits his wrongs, apologizes and asks for forgiveness, that’s the moment when Lance can begin to move forward, out from the shadows and into the light.


Glaxo’s new notoriety: $3b in criminal fines, an apology and a vow to do better

Posted by: Stacy Bettison Updated: July 11, 2012 - 9:08 PM
On Monday, July 2, 2012, GlaxoSmithKline pled guilty to 3 misdemeanor criminal counts and settled civil liabilities concerning prescription drugs Paxil, Wellbutrin and Avandia.  GSK and its CEO have done well to respond with contrition and a commitment to make things right.
According to government allegations, here’s what happened:  
  • GSK unlawfully marketed the wildly popular Paxil to children and adolescents, which had FDA approval to treat depression only for adults.  While GSK was targeting children, Paxil was flying off the shelves: Paxil sales surpassed $1.8 billion in both 2001 and 2002.  It became one of the top 10 selling drugs and for a time the most commonly used selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
  • Wellbutrin, approved as an antidepressant, was unlawfully marketed as a wonder drug for weight loss and sexual dysfunction.  Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said GSK hired a “public relations firm to create a buzz about getting skinny and how you could have more sex simply by using this drug.” 
  • For Avandia, a diabetes drug, GSK failed to provide certain safety data to the FDA so the agency could determine if the drug continues to be safe for its approved indications.

America is more medicated and spending more money on prescription drugs than ever before.  The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control indicates that prescription use by children and adults is on the rise, and spending for prescription drugs was $234.1 billion in 2008 -- more than double what was spent in 1999. When a company like GSK is selling more drugs to more people, using fraud to sell even more drugs looks downright greedy– all at the expense of sick and suffering Americans.

Apologize, Be Visionary and Clean House GSK was no doubt braced for the government to make a public spectacle of the ordeal and issue a tongue-lashing.  GSK responded the right way and made little attempt to minimize or recharacterize what it did.  Indeed, there is no “positive” about a $3 billion criminal and civil fine (unless you’re the government).  The penalty is so enormous and the conduct so egregious, attempting to do anything but accept full responsibility would be wholly inconsistent with GSK’s guilty plea and settlement. 

Here’s how GSK responded: 

1.     Press release.  While a wordy headline makes no mention of “fraud” or “criminal” (nor is there an expectation that it would), GSK puts the $3 billion out front: “GlaxoSmithKline concludes previously announced agreement in principle to resolve multiple investigations with US Government and numerous states; Final settlement of $3bn covered by existing legal provisions announced in November 2011. Fundamental changes to US compliance, marketing and selling procedures implemented in recent years.” 

 2.     CEO Statement (within press release):

- Apology.  CEO Andrew Witty was apologetic, expressed regret and his intention to act in the interest of patients.  Anything short of a full scale, unequivocal apology would have been viewed as insufficient, even offensive.

- Distance between alleged conduct and CEO’s tenure.  Witty distanced GSK’s past bad acts by noting they “originate in a different era for the company,” but acknowledged that they “cannot and will not be ignored.”  Witty became CEO in 2008 – most of the alleged conduct occurred between 1999-2007.

- Focus on patients.  Witty shared his vision for that GSK’s culture focus on patients, be transparent and act with integrity.

- Corrective actions. Witty’s statement outlined what GSK is doing to fix the problems. This is critical information because the American public (and government) must be assured that GSK is cleaning house, reviewing and changing policies, and removing employees who don’t perform as expected.

- Bringing innovation to market in compliance with regulations.  Witty acknowledged the unique role GSK has in bringing innovation medicine to market in compliance with government rules and standards.

3.     Corporate Integrity Agreement. GSK entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement as part of its settlement with the government.  Under this agreement, GSK is required to change its executive compensation program so the company may recoup annual bonuses and long-term incentives from covered executives if they, or their subordinates, engage in significant misconduct. Among other things, the agreement also requires GSK to implement and maintain transparency in its research practices and publication policies.

4.     GSK Corporate Responsibility Reports.  Visit GSK’s website, and you’ll see its beautifully prepared and substantively rich 2011 Corporate Responsibility Report featured on the home page. The company has an archive of CR reports dating back to 2002.  Any organization anticipating a high-profile matter with negative publicity should ensure that all the important contributions of the company, particularly in areas of corporate social responsibility, are prominently highlighted and easily accessible. 

GSK will no doubt emerge from underneath this black cloud quickly.  As the world’s second largest drug company, it has tremendous resources to repair the damage and ensure something of this scale doesn’t happen again.  The company and its CEO have engendered tremendous goodwill in the effort to reach the world’s poorest, most neglected populations.  This bank of goodwill, coupled with what appears to be a genuine desire to do what’s right, will move GSK and its customers forward.  

Follow Stacy on Twitter -- @StacyBettison.   



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