Google Search Site search Web search  
Jobs in PR
Career Guides
Toolkit: How to PR
Desk References
Media Relations
Crisis Management
Basics of PR
International PR
Professional Orgs
Wired PR
Steven R. Van Hook
All Subjects

Loose Talk Costs Careers & Credibility
Your next PR disaster may only be a few careless words away.
 Related Resources
• Basics of PR
• Media Relations
• Jobs in PR
• PR Toolkit
• Lots More PR Articles

 by Gerry McCusker
PR Analyst & Author

Gerry McCuskerVirtually no-one's safe 
from the PR fallout of 'foot-in-mouth' disease. Hollywood-based Aussie star Mel Gibson is the latest in a long line of public figures whose careless utterances or public outbursts have gone a long way to damaging either their personal or corporate reputations.

After being stopped by an LA Highway Patrol, Gibson's tequila-charged, anti-Semitic outburst perhaps pales into insignificance when compared to English TV soccer pundit Ron Atkinson, whose 'off mike' comment calling former Chelsea defender, Marcel Desailly, "a f**king lazy, thick ni**er," was broadcast live. Atkinson's comments cost him two media positions plus a lucrative sponsorship deal with soft drink company, 7UP. Now, Gibson has had the plug pulled on an ABC mini-series based, ironically, on the Holocaust. Yes, these 'foot-in-mouth' outbreaks can be hazardous to the health of your career.

Surely, though, the king of all careless quotes was the former UK jewelry magnate Gerald Ratner, who brought an entire retail chain to ruin. At a directorial business function, Ratner quipped that his eponymous jewelry products were 'crap' and probably cost less to make than a prawn sandwich.

For engaging his thorax before his thought processes, Ratner was ousted as company chairman after his words were extensively reported in the British media. However, the candid exec left a linguistic legacy as the phrase 'doing a Ratner,' has become British media shorthand for saying something really stupid.

While Gibson's and Ratner's gaffes have been equally widely denounced and publicized, they join an elite cohort of celebs, execs and spokespeople the world over who've managed to shoot themselves in the foot after contracting foot-in-mouth disease.

On landing a contact to promote a low alcohol lager called 'Dansk,' former English cricketer Ian Botham revealed that he wouldn't actually be drinking "the gnat's piss" himself. Wayward English soccer star Paul Gascoigne signed a contract to promote 'Brut' cologne, but quickly insisted that aftershave was for 'nancies.'

When vegetarian Geoffrey Giuliano, one of the 150 or so Ronald MacDonald clowns employed worldwide decided to retire, he wasn't too shy to offer a disastrous PR parting shot, saying he'd been; "the happy face on something that was horrendous."

In all of the cases mentioned the media had a field day, gleefully reporting on the unforgivable lunacy of these off-the-cuff comments. Because of the way the modern media operates -- feeding on a staple diet of bad news, pouncing on any slips or slurs of the tongue -- every word uttered either at work or at play could catalyze a personal or corporate PR disaster.

©Gerry McCusker, 2006

Gerry McCusker is a PR analyst, author and presenter whose book 
Talespin PR Disasters features 79 real life case studies of global PR gaffes. 
His weblog also monitors and tracks PR disasters: 

More Articles  |  Submit Your Article  |  PR Subjects

About Public Relations Homepage

Contact Us