Makes you cringe, doesn’t it?
Imagine if someone had broadcast some of the off-hand comments you’ve made to a close friend or colleague over the years. Yikes. Fortunately for you, the mic wasn’t on.
Unfortunately for some very high-profile people lately, the microphone was on and their comments were broadcast loud and clear across the nation, making millions of us cringe. (Think: California Assemblyman Mike Duvall. Former Obama Administration official Van Jones. Congressman Joe Wilson. Kanye West – though he actually grabbed the mic on purpose.)
Whether out of arrogance or sheer stupidity, public figures – particularly politicians –seem to have forgotten some important cardinal rules of public life: “Someone is always listening.” And, “If your grandmother would gasp, you probably shouldn’t say it.” It’s a point I drive home with clients, especially the high-profile ones.
But this PR advice isn’t reserved for the famous and powerful. Even people who aren’t in public life should take these cardinal rules of communication to heart.
Think about the inquisitive ears of children and the things they’ll repeat on the playground.
Think of your colleague who may secretly deplore the casual way you talk about your intimate life.
Think about the inappropriate email you sent and where it got forwarded (with your name still attached).
Or think of that risqué photo your teenager texted to her boyfriend that somehow ended up all over the school and Internet. (BIG cringe.)
In the words of Lyle Lovett, “I realize there are things you say and do that you can never take back.” Yep. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.
When it comes to communication -- whether verbal, written or electronic -- use your brain. Don’t create a public relations crisis for yourself. If the words or images would make your grandmother cringe, refrain from saying or sending it. And ALWAYS ASSUME THE MIC IS ON.