Britney Spears Reputation Management Mistakes You Should Avoid

Reputation is possibly your most important asset. Thus, reputation management is crucial to your success.

The classic example of reputation management can be found in the small town.

Population is so tiny interactions between members are frequent. More importantly, most interactions are face-to-face and positively identified–that is, there is no question who said or did what.

Thus, reputation accrues throughout one’s lifetime. In a nutshell, one’s individual reputation depends both on one’s own actions and experiences. [Yes, reputation is a lot like your brand. Think back to Bill Leider’s post, “What Is a Brand?“]

I’ve said in the past that there are ways to go about becoming the most irresistible person at a party. Gauging by the comments, this topic resonated with people. But I should have added a warning: don’t become the party.

Britney Spears doesn’t seem to understand this.

The Grammy-award winning singer rocketed into success in less than 4 years and seemed to have ahead of her a brilliant career. But something unraveled. She failed to manage her actions, her experience–in essence, her reputation.

I like to thing she compromised her values [because, as you will see, she did have values] to please the world.

What follows is a brief history of her sad career to date and the the 6 reputation management mistakes she made. The mistakes you should avoid.

1. Spears posed for Rolling Stone.

The shot garnered widespread criticism for the mixing of wholesome innocence and sex.

But why the criticism? Didn’t Madonna do the same with sex and Catholicism [“Just Like a Prayer” video]?

I think the difference is that Madonna was controlled. Her image was not the same as her lifestyle. Besides, Spears was only 18, pointing to her lack of direction, experience and foresight. This will show up later.

The lesson for you: know what you are doing. And if you don’t, educate yourself. More importantly, figure out the consequences for your actions early in your life or career. Create a moral compass to live by. Anything that doesn’t fit into that narrow set of values, ignore. Think long term.

2. Spears declared she’d remain a virgin until marriage.

Noble, indeed. But hardly believable considering her childhood trauma, overt sexuality [see point 1] and relationship with fellow pop singer Justin Timberlake.

Spears’ statement is an example of a statement that lacks credibility. If you want to make a bold, noble statement, make sure that your lifestyle–both private and public–supports it. Otherwise you simply get the requisite cock of the head, the “yeah, right,” the wide swath people cut to stay away from you.

3. Spears ruined her restaurant through mismanagement and debt.

Early 2003, Spears entered territory she didn’t belong. And wasted dollars and time and reputation.

The same goes for us. We need to remain experts in our area of expertise. Going after money in an arena we know nothing about is doomed to failure. And failing by debt and mismanagement will remain on our reputation scorecard for a long time. Unless you move to a different state, of course.

4. Spears first marriage lasted 55 hours.

The reputation lesson to learn here is that you need to understand what you are getting yourself into. Otherwise you could look like a fool that people avoid [see point 2].

Spears requested the annulment to childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander on January 4, 2004, because she “lacked understanding of her actions to the extent she was incapable of agreeing to marriage because…[they] did not know each other’s likes and dislikes….”

The impact on Spears’ reputation is clear: she is either a naive or simple girl. Neither virtue that instills confidence in people.

If you want people to believe in you, steer clear of rash, uninformed decisions and opportunities. Build a foundation of credibility through perfection by making consistently wise business choices.

Your reputation will love you for it.

5. Spears does chaotic reality TV show.

Any particular reason you need to make public to millions of people your immaturity, abrasiveness or irrationality?

While this behavior might pay the bills for rock stars, it’s not likely to get you any kind of lasting success or brownie points. People might like to gape at your weaknesses, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever want to work with you. That wide swathe they cut for you…they’ll make it wider.

Of course, the best way to avoid publication of your weaknesses is simply to minimize them. And this means, investment in personal growth is one of the wisest decisions you could ever make.

6. Spears shaves her head.

Clearly, at this point, she is devastated by her life. She has no control over her emotions and appears to be tormented. From a reputation management perspective she needs intervention–someone to take control of her life for her.

For you this means having accountability, reporting to a mentor.

Don’t think you can weather the storm by yourself or that you are smarter than anyone else out there. An isolationist attitude will level you flat.

Find a friend, pastor, executive or relative you can easily trust and cultivate a relationship with that person. Ask them to hold you responsible for your actions. And to take you by the collar when you stumble.

Also, consider creating a small group of peers you respect to bounce ideas off of. Even if you have “the best idea in the whole world” and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s going to work, discipline yourself to run ideas by other people. They might just save your career.


Spears short music career is a history of a life spiraling out of control. Perhaps it is psychosis to blame, evidential in behavior that ranges most recently from crying uncontrollably as she walks her dog to faking a British accent to shopping manias at all hours of the night. But something like this doesn’t develop over night.

It’s sad, and overall speaks to the point that she needs help. And the final point to drive home to you is this: it’s probably safe to say that her misery was in part due to the fact that she surrounded herself with the wrong people.

Make sure you don’t make the same mistake.

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