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Scared for Your Reputation? The Crime Is Seldom as Serious as the Cover Up. Ryan Lochte is merely the latest in a very long line of people who made their problems much, much worse by lying for fear of the truth.

By Jim Joseph

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Matt Hazlett | Getty Images
Ryan Lochte

Richard Nixon.

Martha Stewart.

Bill Clinton.

Have we not learned from others before us?

It's never the crime that gets you into hot water. -- it's always the cover up.

Related: Top 10 Tools for Reputation Marketing

Which appears to have just happened in Brazil with Mr. Ryan Lochte and his fellow teammates. It's not so much what they did or didn't do, but it's the story they allegedly wove after having done whatever it is that they did. Rather than just be honest about what happened, they seemingly chose to cover it all up with an alternate story. That alternate story not only didn't stick, it didn't jive with some of the facts.

So apparently it's the cover up got them in a heap of trouble.

Once again.

Sure, the scuffle with the authorities will be over soon, if not already. But the court of social public opinion will weigh in for years, influencing their futures and their future deals.

As a society, we sometimes put up with a lot, but we're not so cool about lying and about cover-ups. Cover-ups can cost you dearly and we've seen it over and over again.

Related: 9 Networking Blunders That Undermine Your Reputation

So what's the lesson learned for marketers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs? How can we avoid something like this happening with our own brands?

Come clean.

Be honest about who you are and what you do. It's okay to make mistakes, we all do. We expect that all of us will make mistakes. It honestly comes with the territory. It's what you do after you make the mistake that reveals your true persona. In this case, your true brand persona and how you decide to operate as a business.

So don't cover up your mistakes or make excuses about them or blame others for them. Take it all on directly and take responsibility… then talk through a game plan for how you plan to fix it.

I would bet that if Ryan and his friends had simply come clean about what happened and then repaired any damages, no one would have spent more than five seconds on it. It would have made headlines for a New York minute, and then everyone would have moved on. But now instead, this one will likely affect their careers for the rest of their lives.

Related: 6 Tools for Monitoring Your Online Reputation

Don't let that happen to your business.

Above all else, conduct yourself, your marketing, and your business practices with open and honest communications. Be true to yourself at every step and let your customers know that yes you do make mistakes but you also take responsibility for them.

It'll help to build your brand and your business for the long term.

Jim Joseph

Marketing Master - Author - Blogger - Dad

Jim Joseph is a commentator on the marketing industry. He is Global President of the marketing communications agency BCW, author of The Experience Effect series and an adjunct instructor at New York University.

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