By now you’ve likely heard, read about or seen the videos an anti-abortion activist surreptitiously recorded of a Planned Parenthood medical director from Los Angeles apparently talking about the organization selling fetal tissue for medical research.
Forget who is right or wrong, in this case and in the broader debate. And let’s not bog down in the ethics of secret videotaping. Nor should we bother about people who maybe go beyond the facts and say things over a glass of wine they don’t truly mean.
Let’s not even get into what this might mean for the 2016 Republican president primaries, or the general election after there’s a nominee. Or, that this could lead to criminal investigations and possibly charges on both sides of this video frame.
And, even for the mission of this blog, let’s not talk about how Planned Parenthood has responded to this crippling crisis. For the most part, in terms of crisis management, it has done a credible job. But it is pushing a boulder up a ski jump.
Let’s all instead take a deep breath and over-reinforce for ourselves, our co-workers and our companies that the stupid stuff we do in private can look really bad in public.
Let’s remind ourselves and others that language used in a flipped off email can bite us. That embellishing of facts to a friend can sure sound like outright lying to others. That one person in our organization can, even unwittingly, destroy the organization.
We must keep front of mind that a crisis will ensue, jobs will be lost, millions of dollars won’t be contributed and C-levels will be fired when what was thought to be a confidential, private moment instead becomes public. We all say things all the time about others that we don’t really believe. But out of ego, spite, comedy, cynicism, self-aggrandizement … stupidity … we say anyway.
Decades ago, the listener may have tattled. Years ago, you might have been recorded. Today, your whole sorry, exaggerated speech can be videotaped without your knowledge and your embarrassing choice of words broadcast from Alaska to Wyoming and back — much to your chagrin and much to the horror of your employer.
If you don’t want to see it in tomorrow’s headlines, re-live it endlessly on YouTube and have it engraved on your Wiki page, don’t say it.
What this says about us as a society, as a world where we assume trust exists between people, is not encouraging.
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 and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.