In the grand scheme of things, tricking two NFL general managers into a recorded phone call that outed their true feelings on some of their players won’t rock the world like Chinese cyberspying, or even a new pope.
Yet it does clearly demonstrate that anyone, yes you, can be thrown into an embarrassing crisis with little pretext and almost no guilty action on your part.
Here’s what happened, according to the website Deadspin — the outfit that broke the Manti Te’o no girlfriend story.
A prank phone call by two unnamed teenagers resulted in a recorded conversation between general managers Buddy Nix, right, of the Buffalo Bills and Mark Dominik of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers. In it they commented about some named players, one of whom, Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, was subsequently released — no surprise to Bills fans.
According to Deadspin, the pranksters initially called Nix’s office claiming to be Dominik, and when the call was patched through, they hung up. Nix kept calling back the number, seeking to talk with Dominik. Eventually, Nix called back precisely when the pranksters were calling Dominik’s office and were patched through to the Bucs GM. They put the calls on speaker phone and recorded them with a second cell phone and listened.
Whether the teenagers are “caught” and/or prosecuted for various minor eavesdropping crimes, this is more amusing than damaging. No nuclear codes were lost; the two GMs weren’t even discussing a possible trade.
But it should serve as a warning to us all. Technology is an amazing tool, but now it’s in everyone’s hands and social media provides a famished stomach for any and all who want to cook up a scheme or prank. Yesterday, I watched a British ice climber fall 330 harrowing feet down a frozen couloir on a British Columbia mountain and survive. Tomorrow, completely ignorant, I could watch myself take a similar pratfall.
Consider the videotaping of an unaware Mitt Romney as he dissed 47 percent of Americans as slackers; or videos of drunken nights whose posting to Facebook or YouTube provide prospective employers with reasons not to hire the inebriated prospect; or email and text trails that convict murderous husbands or expose corporate crooks.
There’s a crisis and media management law that can serve as a cautionary rule: If you don’t want to see it on TV, hear it on the radio or read it in a newspaper or online, don’t say it. There’s no such thing as “off the record.”
Forewarned is forearmed, my sixth-grade teacher used to say.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.