PR Lessons for When Your Lose Your Temper

By Mark Macias

A US Congressman made national news back in 2014 after he was caught on camera threatening to throw a reporter over a balcony inside the US Capitol. 

There’s a great lesson on crisis communications and branding that you can take from this exchange. Always assume the camera is live.

I had first-hand experience with this Congressman before this situation was captured on TV. In 2010, I was his Communications Director and helped guide his campaign to victory. My time working closely with this politician gave me raw insight into his personality when the camera wasn’t rolling.

He didn’t have much experience dealing with reporters and it frequently showed during interviews. He made classic mistakes that many novice politicians and business owners make.

Here are some of the biggest mistakes many people make, and how you can avoid falling into their traps.

The Camera is Always Hot

I can’t tell you how many times as a TV producer where a person continued to talk when the camera lights were turned off. The interview is never over when a camera or microphone is nearby. 

If you are within earshot of a microphone or camera, assume it is recording even if the lights are off. More importantly, many people don’t realize how powerful these microphones can be even from a distance. 

Boom microphones can pick up sound even when the camera is not within sight. Don’t say anything stupid, or worse, threaten a reporter when a camera or microphone is nearby.

Be Respectful of Reporters

Many politicians seem to have the same DNA make-up. They are used to being in charge and they don’t like being told what to do. This doesn’t work well with journalists who take pride in their independence. 

And when these two sides collide, it can frequently be bad for the story. I’ve worked with many CEOs and founders who were interviewed by reporters and showed a lack of respect for the journalist throughout the interview. 

After the interviews, the CEOs went on to tell me why they didn’t like the journalist. I get it. I was one of them. But what everyone needs to realize is that journalists are trained to question and look for motives. If you give them a reason to not like you, you will succeed. Be kind, be courteous and practice what your kindergarten teacher taught you about others anytime you deal with a reporter.

When you Mess up, Take Responsibility

That member of Congress who threatened to throw a reporter over the ledge could have salvaged the situation. So what was his response?

“I was annoyed. I was doing them a favor,” he told The New York Post. “The reporter took a cheap shot at the end and I verbally took him to task. I was angry and I had every right to be.”

I wouldn’t recommend that response. 

Don’t blame a reporter when you lose your temper. Losing your temper happens to everyone – from Moms to politicians. 

If it happens and you realize later that you made a mistake, take ownership of it. If you’re in a position of authority and your organization is being questioned, don’t take it personal. It comes with the territory.

ABOUT MACIAS PR

MACIAS PR was founded in 2009 by Mark Macias – a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. Marketing peers named MACIAS PR the Best Strategic PR Firm while Finance Monthly named us the Top PR consulting firm from 2015 to 2021. City & State Magazine has named Mark Macias a Top 50 Political PR Player in New York.