from the PR fallout of 'foot-in-mouth' disease. Hollywood-based Aussie
star Mel Gibson is the latest in a long line of public figures whose
careless utterances or public outbursts have gone a long way to damaging
either their personal or corporate reputations.
After being stopped by an LA Highway Patrol, Gibson's tequila-charged,
anti-Semitic outburst perhaps pales into insignificance when compared to
English TV soccer pundit Ron Atkinson, whose 'off mike' comment calling
former Chelsea defender, Marcel Desailly, "a f**king lazy, thick ni**er,"
was broadcast live. Atkinson's comments cost him two media positions plus
a lucrative sponsorship deal with soft drink company, 7UP. Now, Gibson has
had the plug pulled on an ABC mini-series based, ironically, on the
Holocaust. Yes, these 'foot-in-mouth' outbreaks can be hazardous to the
health of your career.
Surely, though, the king of all careless quotes was the former UK jewelry
magnate Gerald Ratner, who brought an entire retail chain to ruin. At a
directorial business function, Ratner quipped that his eponymous jewelry
products were 'crap' and probably cost less to make than a prawn sandwich.
For engaging his thorax before his thought processes, Ratner was ousted as
company chairman after his words were extensively reported in the British
media. However, the candid exec left a linguistic legacy as the phrase
'doing a Ratner,' has become British media shorthand for saying something
While Gibson's and Ratner's gaffes have been equally widely denounced and publicized,
they join an elite cohort of celebs, execs and spokespeople the world over
who've managed to shoot themselves in the foot after contracting
On landing a contact to promote a low alcohol lager called 'Dansk,' former
English cricketer Ian Botham revealed that he wouldn't actually be
drinking "the gnat's piss" himself. Wayward English soccer star
Paul Gascoigne signed a contract to promote 'Brut' cologne, but quickly
insisted that aftershave was for 'nancies.'
When vegetarian Geoffrey Giuliano, one of the 150 or so Ronald MacDonald
clowns employed worldwide decided to retire, he wasn't too shy to offer a
disastrous PR parting shot, saying he'd been; "the happy face on
something that was horrendous."
In all of the cases mentioned the media had a field day, gleefully
reporting on the unforgivable lunacy of these off-the-cuff comments.
Because of the way the modern media operates -- feeding on a staple diet
of bad news, pouncing on any slips or slurs of the tongue -- every word
uttered either at work or at play could catalyze a personal or corporate
©Gerry McCusker, 2006
McCusker is a PR analyst, author and presenter whose book
Talespin PR Disasters features 79 real life case studies of global
His weblog also monitors and tracks PR disasters: prdisasters.com
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