Best of CoBiz: Top seven lessons business can learn from politics
No matter who gets your vote, you must admit this election is quite entertaining. It is a media circus truly worthy of Barnum & Bailey. Businesspeople can learn a few things from this silly season:
1). Watch what you say. Wherever you are speaking, you are not necessarily among friends. Don’t say anything that might compromise your reputation, your integrity or your business. You never know these days when someone’s cell phone camera is on “record.”
2). Watch how you say it. Many of the most damaging sound bites to the candidates are comments that are taken completely out of context. When you speak publicly, go over your speech with a fine-tooth comb to assure that there are no sound bites that will come back and bite you, even when taken out of context. Video can be edited, so watch every phrase you say in front of reporters. And remember: These days, everyone and their sibling thinks they’re a reporter.
3). Don’t send nude photos of yourself. Ever! This means any body part, people! It can get misdirected or out there in a variety of ways – even if it’s sent to someone you love.
4). Don’t assume the mic is off. Always assume it is on. Ditto with a camera. If you are in a room with mics and cameras, assume that every single thing you say is public.
5). Understand that nothing is private anymore. What you say to others, even in confidence, is not private. What you say in your own home is not necessarily private. Emails are certainly not private. Putting privacy on your Facebook page doesn’t make it private. Assume that whatever you say or do will eventually become public knowledge. So live in such a way that you don’t care if it is public knowledge. If you can’t shout if from the housetops, it is best not to do it.
6). If you’ve done something wrong, don’t assume that it can be kept hidden. If you haven’t done anything wrong, but it just looks bad, ditto. It is better to let the bad thing out and apologize than to have people wondering. If you tell on yourself, you can control the message. If the press or a competitor finds it out, you are toast. If you try to hide it, people will assume the worst.
7). Keep your staff in line and on-message. It’s bad enough when you make a gaffe. But when your staff is saying stupid things, it can derail you just as much. Any staff member who is not on-message with the company line needs to be successful elsewhere. The less your staff talks, the better. Have clear company policies about who may and may not talk to the press. Make sure the message coming out of your company is both coherent and consistent.
Understand that, both in politics and the business world, it is a “gotcha” game. Skeletons, gaffes, indiscretions and so on need not ruin your career if they are handled deftly. Control the message and the spin, and your company will wind up with mostly great press and a good reputation.