Somebody’s Always Watching You
Everything You Say or Do in Public is On the Record
Growing up in the ‘80’s I remember liking Rockwell’s Somebody’s Watching Me song. As far as I know, he was a one hit wonder, but I find that I still like that song. I even have it on my iTunes. At the time it was different and kind of funny.
Looking back on the song though, there is some truth to it. There is always somebody watching you. This has become more evident wit the number of “ninja pics” that appear online and through social media and through sites like The People of Walmart. From a public relations (PR) perspective this creates some nervousness and requires some training to be ready for and prepare for this.
Let me share some examples to illustrate the point.
I have a friend that was heading to a client meeting. The meeting was scheduled for just after the lunch hour and he ended up spending most of his lunch break preparing for the meeting. On his way to the meeting he stopped and picked up some tacos at a local fast food joint. He went through the drive thru and drove to the client’s office. Upon arriving at the client’s office he sat in the parking lot to eat his tacos.
He was in a hurry and proceeded to eat fast so he wouldn’t be late for the meeting. When he finished his tacos, he got out of his car and walked into the office. When he walked in, the receptionist smiled and said, “You must have been hungry the way you devoured those tacos.”
My friend smiled and agreed that he was hungry. He knew he had eaten fast but was now wondering what that must have looked like. Without knowing it, he had been watched while he quickly ate his tacos and was left wondering what impression he had left.
In a similar scenario, at a recent client event, I was driving a client to the event venue. As we arrived, my client got out of the car and walked away to check on a few last minute items. I got out of my car but just stood by my car waiting. As I stood there I heard a voice from behind say something. I didn’t know anybody else was nearby and didn’t quite catch what the person had said. I turned to see who was talking and asked the person to repeat what she had said.
She said something about how it looked like I was happy and having fun. I hadn’t thought about it to be honest but that’s the perception I gave. Again, without knowing it, I was being watched. It turns out the impression I left was positive and reflected well upon me.
Here are five tips to help remind you that somebody’s always watching and to help you avoid embarrassing yourself.
- If you don’t want to be heard saying, don’t say it in public. In a previous blog I wrote about how you’re always on the record. Be aware of your surroundings. If you’re at an airport waiting in the terminal or on the plane and you say or do something inappropriate, it can be repeated or used by a reporter in a potential story. Be careful about who is around you and who could hear or see you. If it’s sensitive or confidential information, wait to talk about it until you know you’re alone.
- If you don’t want to be seen dong something then don’t do it in public. How many times has a celebrity or athlete been caught on film or seen doing something embarrassing? It seems to happen all the time and we seem to find out about it more often now due to social media and constant social sharing. In a famous Seinfeld episode called “The Pick”, Jerry got caught in what looked like picking his nose. There are always things you need to do, but some things, like picking your nose should be done in private.
- Be aware of open mics or recording devices. During the last presidential campaign, Mitt Romney and President Obama both got caught saying things they didn’t intend for the general public to hear. Both got lambasted for the things they said and then had to answer questions about what they said and try to defend themselves. In one instance that happened years ago, a client was speaking at an industry event. He did an amazing job and the crowd loved his presentation. As he sat down he whispered to a colleague something along the lines of how that speech had just destroyed their largest competitor. This individual had forgotten to take his mic off his lapel and the entire audience, including their competitor heard his comment
- Be aware of what information is available to see. Be conscious of what you’ve got written on the whiteboard in your office, what’s showing on your computer screen or what papers are on your desk for anybody and everybody to see. If a reporter, or anybody for that matter, sees something on your whiteboard they can use it. A few years ago I set up a media interview for a client. The interview was held in the client’s office, specifically the CEO’s office. As we talked, the CEO invited the reporter to come around the desk to see a demo on his computer. As the reporter and I moved around the desk, I noticed the company’s bank statement and payroll report sitting on the CEO’s desk. I quickly sat on the papers to shield them from the reporter. Had the reporter seen those documents he could have used them in his article.
- Check and double check. If you want to say something in confidence or do something without an audience, check to make sure you’re alone or that nobody’s going to see you. My brother-in-law likes to work on and fix up old cars. He has a system he’s set up to check and then double check that he’s followed the proper steps to ensure that he’s fixed, repaired or replaced the things he needs. It takes him a few extra minutes but in the long run it saves him future problems because he’s checked and double checked his work to make sure it’s done right.
I once heard somebody say his policy is to never write anything down, don’t’ take any photos and to deny, deny, deny. While I don’t recommend this as an effective policy, I do believe you can take certain precautions to ensure that even though you’re always being watched you aren’t embarrassing yourself or hurting your personal brand by doing something you’ll later regret. I have a good friend who says he follows two basic rules. Don’t do anything that will embarrass his employer and don’t do anything that would embarrass his mother. Those are pretty solid guidelines and when you think about it, if you follow and adhere to those guidelines you’ll save yourself a lot of potential embarrassment.