Talk Like You’re in a Fishbowl

There are at least four reasons most of us are not celebrities or famous athletes: talent, luck, timing and the fishbowl.  I will focus on the fishbowl for this post, because by pure force of timing I was reading the sports section of the NY Daily News on the subway (I usually don’t get to these pages but the train was delayed) and came across the story of the day re NY Jets QB Brett Favre dishing to the ex-Lions GM Matt Millen about his former team and Lions rival the Green Bay Packers.  Millen was hoping his friend Favre would share some of his 16 years of experience with the Packers to help Millen’s team (the Detroit Lions at the time) defeat the Packers.  You’re thinking, most likely: So What? We do this all the time, don’t we? If a friend or colleague needs information on a person or company for which you worked, will you share some insight? If your agency is about to compete against another agency for a big account, would you call your friend Joe who used to work at the agency holding the account for a little insight? Would  Joe share just a little something, all within the bounds of ethics and free speech? He probably would — but Joe is not a celebrity or an athlete and neither are you (presumably), so the encounter is unlikely to see the light of day.  Some of the players on the Packers are calling their former QB a traitor. Favre contends he didn’t dish any secrets, didn’t hand over the playbook. And perhaps he didn’t. His biggest mistake was not admitting at the very start that he spoke to since-fired Lions GM Millen back in September.  Perception is reality and the reality is that Favre does appear suspect (at least during this 24-hour news cycle) because he denied a conversation took place — at first. Time went by, the media rushed him, and he admitted a conversation took place.  The timing of his admittance was key to this story making headlines, but with any luck another sports scandal will break and “Lion Gate” will be yesterday’s news.  Though most of us don’t live in a fishbowl, Lion Gate is a reminder that it’s always prudent to watch what you say, who you say it to and who might be watching. That’s the “talent” part of being a savvy communicator and PR counselor.

– Diane Schwartz