One of the biggest issues for any public figure or brand is the faith with which they keep their core promise to their stakeholders. When they mess up, and they always do eventually, there is a momentary opportunity to avoid further disaster. This moment affords them the chance to come clean and potentially be forgiven for a transgression. But that moment quickly passes, and with it, and the opportunity to make it right.

Here’s how it works: A bad moment sticks to a public figure, candidate, or brand if the misstep directly contradicts the image. Another way to look at it is if such a misstep or if it validates what a rival or competitor might say to undermine this image, then it can become a significant problem.

Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Joe Paterno (and Penn State) all had bad moments this week.