Corporate Eye

Embarrassing Media Moments: What We Can Learn From Sarah Palin’s Conversation with President Sarkozy

Business people have a lot of responsibilities to take care of on a day-to-day basis, but also in many cases have assistants to help them get everything accomplished. But even with so many things to do and always seemingly in a hurry to get them done, inevitably something will fall through the cracks and fail. Although it may sound and seem like a grandiose, self-inflating thing to do, it is a wise piece of advice for any person in business:

Always have your phone calls screened.

No matter what level of business or type of industry you’re in, it is a wise thing to always be careful and mindful of the things you say and the people to whom you say them. In this digital age that we live in, there is always the unfortunate chance that the things you say, email, post and vlog can come back to get you.

This past weekend was one such case of embarrassment, humiliation and regret having not properly screened a phone call or double-checked to make sure that the person is in fact who they said they were. The United States Vice-Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin (R-AK) received a “supposed” telephone call from the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, when in fact she was being pranked by two Canadian comedians. The phone call lasted for about six minutes, just long enough for Governor Palin to say and hear some embarrassing and regretful things about animal killing, Sarkozy’s sexy wife and a pornography tape made (without consent) about Palin. Governor Palin during the conversation never corrected or questioned President Sarkozy. She really thought that she was speaking to the French President himself.

Unfortunately, the phone call was six minutes of conversation that could potentially hurt the McCain campaign and further shed a despairingly negative light about the already controversial and questionable Sarah Palin. For instance, if in fact that had really been French President Sarkozy, would he have really been discussing his wife and their intimate bedroom life? Would he have in fact said “I can see Belgium from my house!”, or, “I love killing animals, mmmm.” These are things that make you take pause and wonder before you respond, or at least you should.

But in Governor Palin’s defense, I’m sure that she was 1.) absolutely flattered that a country’s president was calling her, 2.) again flattered that said president of a country was calling her this close to the election, perhaps to wish her well, 3.)  again, flattered that he called her on her cell phone, while she out on the campaign trail. In any event, Governor Palin I’m sure today is regretting that she ever took that call and remorseful about some of the things she said and discussed.

Often in business, we’re more than eager to satisfy the customer and give them what they want. Maybe we don’t want to offend anyone or come across as unfriendly or out of touch, so we laugh nervously at their jokes or if there is something said uncomfortably, we just ignore it or pretend we didn’t hear it.

Most of us in everyday business won’t have to necessarily worry about our words becoming publicly accessed and ridiculed, but we still all need to be mindful of what we say and to whom we say it. Aside from pranksters, the media is a powerful news outlet and has the strength to sway notions and opinions in the general population. While much blame can be assigned to the media in making this prank a matter of public ridicule, what can you do to avoid embarrassment for your company?

  1. Ensure that the proper personnel have sufficient knowledge and resources to protect the company’s reputation. Is everyone on a “need-to-know” status? Does any and everyone who asks to speak to you get through?
  2. Become familiar enough with the local and national media sources to see how they typically highlight business owners and deliver information. Learn (or make note of) names , positions and reporting styles within media outlets. This includes blogs, newspapers and radio.
  3. Be consistent in the information that you share with the media. Don’t say one thing to a blog writer and another thing to a reporter interviewer. Be assured that stories will get compared and differences will be magnified.

Is it really necessary to overthink everything that you do and say to the media or by way of conducting business? Probably not, but what is suggested is to be careful and focused on the things that you do choose to share that relate to your company. It may not be that your company ends up in the news in an embarrassing situation, but why take chances? 

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Bridget Wright

Writer, Blogger
I am a freelance writer, blogger and professional motivational speaker. I primarily focus on business content, offering my clients strategic marketing strategies for their businesses. I have been an entrepreneur for over 13 years, after having worked extensively in corporate America.