Like everyone else, I watched with rapt attention as the Chilean miners were rescued last week. However, far more interesting to me than the ongoing reports about their ordeal, is how the public image of these individuals has changed since their rescue.
I suppose it’s inevitable that, now that the miners are free, the focus has turned to the salacious details of the miner’s lives. Who are these people? How do they live? Once heros, the details of their ordinary existance is slowly changing their public image. Take the so called “cheating miner” whose philandering ways garnered him a lucrative offer to serve as a spokesperson for a dating service for married people (really?). He is also known as the “deal breaker” because this offer may fly in the face of the pact the miners made to share all profits from any deals that might come from their ordeal.
As my colleague Paul Gillin pointed out, most celebrities choose the job; but in cases like the mine collapse, these are just regular guys who happen to be in the world’s spotlight because of a chance, harrowing ordeal. The art of reputation management is certainly not their area of expertise.
In a recent interview, one of the miners said, “Give us some time to learn to deal with you, so that we don’t destroy the image that has been created.”
That statement says it all. The image was created by an enraptured public looking for good news, hope and something/someone in which to believe. Most of us said, “I could never do that,” and that is preciscely what elevated these individuals to saint status. Once they became “one of us” again, their reputations changed. The image created by the media was impossible to live up to, and we can’t forgive them for that.
What will be more damaging? 70 days underground or the subsequent impact on their personal reputations now that the ordeal is over? Moreover, will the entire ordeal now be viewed in a negative light? Just as with a corporate executive, the personal reputation of the individual in an occurrence like this matters. As a public, we elevate those we see on TV who have done miraculous things or who run large companies. Up so high on a pedestal, they are destined to fall.