At one of the radio stations I worked at, there was a sign on the studio wall that read: “Be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear.”
Most of us have said things that we instantly regretted. But when you are on a big stage, such as in the presence of cameras, microphones and reporters, careless utterances can take on especially huge significance.
Some important things to remember:
- You are never “off the record.” Even when having a casual conversation with a media person, anything you say can be passed along. NBC’s Brian Williams sent an email to an acquaintance at gossipy website Gawker in January. It was obviously intended to be private. It was posted almost immediately.
- Your comments can and will be taken out of context. In the era of 140 characters and sound bites, one or two sentences out of a lengthy conversation can trigger ginormous amounts of reaction and regret. Check with Hillary Rosen, Ozzie Guillen, BP’s Tony Hayward about what they really meant to communicate.
- There are many people listening—multiple stakeholders with a variety of interests and points of view. Your interviewer or audience may chuckle at your outrageous comment, but someone monitoring your remark somewhere else may be cringing. Remember that in our wired society, things you say before a small group in a remote burg in the sticks can appear the next day all over the world on Youtube and CNN. (Remember the crude video of Kurt Warner trashing Rams’ bosses at a church in Texas a decade ago? He thought no one in St. Louis would ever catch wind of those comments.)
- Don’t drink and tweet. And don’t post comments on Facebook after a few too many beverages.