BEST OF 2011: With a single tweet, Lance Armstrong’s PR machine blunts ’60 Minutes’ segment

A report alleging the cyclist took performance-enhancing drugs was supposed to be a slam dunk. Instead, Armstrong’s preemptive tweet offers a lesson in finely tuned PR.

Cycling superstar Lance Armstrong has figured out that Twitter makes for a perfect sound bite, even in response to a “60 Minutes” expose.

Posted before Sunday night’s program, which said he allegedly took performance-enhancing drugs during his career, Armstrong’s tweet was direct and finely tuned:

“20+ year career. 500 drug controls worldwide, in and out of competition. Never a failed test. I rest my case.”

It was blasted out to Armstrong’s nearly 2.9 million followers, and then retweeted thousands of times, effectively making a clean sweep of the Web. He offered no interviews, a policy he enacted during his seven consecutive Tour de France wins, leaving the media no choice but to quote the tweet in full.

More important, it robbed “60 Minutes” of the drama of two former teammates squaring off on national television—a near-certain ratings booster for a network that has been struggling to retain an audience. And it effectively took the steam out of the much-touted interview with onetime Armstrong teammate Tyler Hamilton.

The “60 Minutes” program was designed to serve as a grand entrance for new CBS News anchor Scott Pelley, who reported the story.

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