Have you ever said something you thought was confidential, but soon realized someone or some ‘thing’ overheard you? The inevitable answer is yes – we all have. However, the consequences of ‘sticking your foot in your mouth’ are much more severe today than they were years ago. Why? The answer is simple – technology. At Fallston Group we often tell our clients “anyone with an internet connection and recording device can wreak havoc on your brand.” This happens within seconds or minutes. The speed of information is faster now than ever before, and so are its verdicts – in other words, the court of public opinion is alive and well. But what’s different than the court of law, is the court of public opinion is judging not only current events but history within a modern, real-time context. Consumers feel empowered more than they ever have before, because of social media and other digital platforms. And not just to criticize and attack specific brands, but to generally share their opinions on brands, issues, events, etc. Consumers will vote with their heart, their wallet, their voice… and, we must adapt to today’s environment.
A recent example is (now former) veteran NHL referee, Tim Peel, who ruined his reputation and career in a matter of seconds. Peel was being recorded during a National Hockey League regular-season game (as most professional referees, umpires, sports games, and even players usually are) and during the first several minutes of the game, Peel stated to another referee: “it wasn’t much, but I wanted to get a f***** penalty against Nashville early…” (Dedaj, 2021). Once the audio was analyzed by league executives, Peel was stripped of all his professional refereeing duties, but scrutiny didn’t stop there. When it comes to the court of public opinion, assumptions were quickly made, and questions were asked. People wondered, are his comments related to sports gambling? Is he a Red Wings fan (the opposing team)? Ultimately, what is his bias? Regardless of the ‘why,’ the awareness of his actions, words, and environment are the reasons his career is now tarnished, and reputation is ruined. This surely isn’t the first (or the last) time we have watched careers mushroom cloud within a matter of minutes. Always remember, when you’re with the news media, your mic is always ‘hot.’ In fact, with technology being as pervasive as it is today, it seems there is always a ‘hot’ mic or video wherever you go!
Now, if you find yourself on the wrong end of a ‘hot’ mic, we’re often asked what to do, regardless of how devastating the recorded comments or actions are. We believe you start by embracing Dr. George Everly’s Resilient Moment Communications Model. The Model suggests that if you answer the following questions, the overwhelming majority of the questions people have, will be answered:
- What happened?
- What caused it?
- What are the effects?
- What is being done now?
- What needs to be done in the future?
While telling your story using this framework won’t make the issue immediately go away, it will go a long way to articulate your position, whether the court of public opinion agrees with you or not.
Bottom line remember you are always ‘HOT’!