Thursday, January 28, 2010

You Tube does it again

Santa Clarita City Councilman and former mayor Bob Kellar found himself in hot water these past few days after his comments at an anti-illegal immigration rally were spread to a wider audience via You Tube.

Plenty of politicians and others have suffered the You Tube fate or other instances where a comment can be recorded and re-broadcast. This latest incident only reinforces what public relations experts and media training professionals have long advocated: Pretend the microphone is never off.

While Kellar's defendants accurately portrayed his comments as "rhetorical hyperbole" and that the elected official is known for not always speaking in the most politically correct terms, the uproar highlights the need for any individual in the public eye to assume there is a video camera or tape recorder within range of their voice.

Former CA assemblyman Mike Duvall is the most recent example of how a comment can end a career. But, if you Google "politicians caught on You Tube" you will see a host of other examples.

It's not easy for elected officials and other public figures to walk on eggshells and speak "on message" all the time. In many cases when a slip occurs, a politician is in a setting among sympathizers and supporters. In this atmosphere, the guard can come down a bit. Feeling they are among "their kind" who share their views, a public figure will feel more comfortable and "tell them how they really feel." In other instances, they mistakenly believe they are in a non-public setting. In Kellar's case, the factors converged. He was among people who supported his views on illegal immigration. It was a rally on a Saturday and he was not representing himself as a city councilman.

I suppose I should be thankful. These missteps keep me in business.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Forbes recently came out with the "10 Most Trusted Celebrities" list, based on research conducted by a Los Angeles-based firm.

While the story begins with why Tiger Woods is obviously not on the list, the story fails to mention that Tiger still has a chance at redemption and recovery. That is, if you simply look at the Forbes list, you will find a couple of celebrities who had their own hiccups and who have managed to move past their personal issues to regain public trust.

A simple Google search should help you find which two of the top 10 celebrities had their own issues. Yes, these missteps did receive mainstream press coverage. No, these personal failings did not even come close to the level of Woods. But, there was damage to the image. At least, only temporarily - if you can believe this latest research.

Certainly, the Tiger Woods fall-from-grace is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest for an international figure. So, one would reason he has a much bigger hole to climb out of and a longer time frame in which to regain public trust.

And that's the point of all this - public trust makes good business sense.

Ever since a few news organizations - like Newsweek and one of its columnists - initially questioned America's fascination with celebrities and argued why a person's private life shouldn't have anything to do with their regular job, there have been plenty of other stories that correctly highlight the ingredients to earning public trust and maintaining a positive reputation.

The entire picture DOES matter. Individuals build a positive public image to earn trust - because they know earned respect will turn into greater financial earnings. There are many core values that we place with corporate leaders - business acumen, decisiveness, ethics and team building. A company's stock price can rise or fall based on the perceived "strength" of its CEO. And, there have been many cases where a "moral misstep" has eroded public confidence in a top executive - even if that leader's business skills remain unchanged. Look at how trust matters leading into DAVOS 2010. Most polling indicates banks have a long road ahead of them to regain public trust. And regaining trust begins with a business leader's ability to earn public respect.

Regaining trust is not impossible. Just look at a couple of celebrities who now are part of a top 10 list.