Why “I Misspoke” Isn’t Good Enough

By now, you have heard and read the about Missouri Republican Representative Todd Akin’s infamous rape victims cannot get pregnant quote.  Needless to say, it received a ton of play on television, print, and social media shortly after he said it on Sunday. His own party has even asked him to drop out of his U.S. Senate race.

As if Rep. Akin’s comments weren’t bad enough. He had this doozy of a statement after his initial remarks later that same day.

“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview, and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year.”

I read this and was baffled… and that was aside from being blown away by Rep. Akin’s initial quote. Let’s put the political fallout aside here and look at public relations lessons we can learn from this.

1)   Off-the-cuff remarks- This is the kind of thing that makes me cringe as a PR pro.  Having done a few media training sessions in my time, we always counsel CEO’s, etc. to not stray off message. Off-the-cuff, or off the discussed talking points, will most times get you in trouble.

2)   “I misspoke”- This isn’t even something that should come out of your mouth. Saying I misspoke shows you a) didn’t bother to think about what you said in the first place and b) is an excuse that will not hold any water in the eyes of the media and the general public.

3)   Media training is absolutely necessary- I mentioned this already, but I cannot stress how important media training is. It can make a CEO more comfortable in talking with the media. It also serves as a way to make sure higher-ups understand just how powerful the media can be.

4)   Don’t put a CEO/representative in a position to fail- Of course, Rep. Akin’s interview probably seemed simple enough at the time. But maybe it wasn’t an interview that was necessary.  A studio interview may not have been the best idea. Putting a CEO (or politician in this instance) in a position to be comfortable is paramount.

5)   Understand the news cycle- The days of something going to the wire services and not getting quick play are over. Within minutes of Rep. Akin’s comment, Twitter came alive with tweets and remarks. It sounds like a broken record, but statements like these are immediately jumped on and rehashed. The cycle is meteoric and can either make or break you in seconds.

Rep. Akin’s comments will hurt him for a long time. And that’s not me misspeaking.

About JasMollica

"It's never too late to have a life and it's never too late to change one." That's something I tell students, friends, and family all the time. After living and working in New York City, I took my own advice in 2004, switched my career from the television/radio industry and got into public relations. Now, I spend my days as a PR/social media marketing consultant and get inspired daily. It's been a good ride, so far. But the car has plenty of gas left. I hope you'll join along in this guy's journey!

Posted on August 23, 2012, in Hot Topic, Media, Public Relations, Social Media and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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