Grandstanding makes for bad PR

Mel Gibson

Today we’ll look at how to handle public relations and media relations THE WRONG WAY with some help from a pair of special guests: the federal government and Mel Gibson.

Lesson #1 – choose your words carefully and say what you mean. This is especially important if you happen to be speaking before a congressional committee. While talking about Toyota on Capitol Hill, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says, “if anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it; take it to the Toyota dealer.” This throws a few million Toyota owners into a frenzy and drives the company’s stock price down. LaHood then says this was “obviously a misstatement.” He later puts it in reverse and says, “What I said in there, or what I thought I said was, ‘if you own one of these cars, or if you’re in doubt, take it to the dealer.’” Whether he was trying to talk tough in front of lawmakers or just put his foot in his mouth, the end result was an inexcusable public relations mistake – and your tax dollars hard at work doing damage control.

Lesson #2 – choose your words carefully and don’t say what you feel. This is especially important if you happen to be a prominent actor doing a live TV interview. Mel Gibson is promoting a movie (his first in eight years) and decides to berate reporters who ask him fair questions about his past mistakes, and calls one of them an “a–hole.” This is not a good tactic to endear yourself to anyone, and no one is buying the publicist story that Gibson was talking about him. At least borrow a page from LaHood’s playbook and try “obviously a misstatement.” An apology would also be a good start, especially if you want to make Lethal Weapon 5.