Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pretend the microphone is always on

Yesterday I read about a VP at Ketchum who recently got in trouble with one of his big clients, Fed Ex, because of a remark he made on Twitter. Upon his arrival for a presentation at Fed Ex's headquarters in Memphis, this gentleman "tweeted" something to the effect of finding the place so undesirable that he'd kill himself if he had to live there. Some folks at Twitter saw the tweet and were none too pleased. Needless to say, he didn't get the business he was hoping to get. You can read Fed Ex's complete response to him here.

My point in writing this post is not to lambaste this individual for his lapse of judgment because, let's face it, we all do dumb things once in a while. However, this incident reminded me of something one of my college professors, Susan Walton, once told our PRSSA chapter: "Always pretend the microphone is on."

We've all heard high profile people make disparaging remarks thinking the microphone is off, and then watched as the unfortunate incident was covered in the media and on YouTube. It's unfortunate, but it happens. If they had simply assumed the mic was on, there would have been no problems.

But what if all PR practitioners adopted this philosophy in our interactions with peers, media, colleagues or clients? Or to take it further, what if all individuals adopted this philosophy in life. I imagine a great deal of heartache and sorrow would go away if we did so.

With the ever-increasing speed of information via the Internet, it's vitally important that we always pretend the microphone is on. Hey, maybe we should just remember our mothers' advice: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."