Professional Development Tips: Character Counts
"Think and act as if the cameras and the microphones are always on. If you make a mistake, own up to it, apologize to those you have hurt, lick your wounds, and move on."
Donna Francavilla, Founder, Frankly Speaking Communications, V-P of Alabama Media Professionals, CBS Radio News Journalist
If you’re in the Spotlight, the Media quickly learns who you really are by how you handle mistakes and intense emotions
An Opinion Piece By Donna Francavilla
Just before the holidays, two events occurred which generated a good bit of discussion about a public figure’s actions. The Brawl at City Hall and comedian Steve Harvey’s mistaken announcement of the wrong Miss Universe had us shaking our heads and secretly thankful it hadn’t happened to us.
The public conflict and subsequent peaceful reconciliation between Birmingham Mayor William A. Bell and Councilman Marcus Lundy was all anyone was talking about in our local community and nationally.
Dubbed, “The Brawl at City Hall,” a bloody fight between two otherwise respectable leaders of our community broke out behind Birmingham City Hall chambers.
While we all try to avoid conflict, especially in public, and certainly cringe when our emotions get the better of us, sometimes we aren’t presenting our best selves. Politicians and public figures have the additional burden of having the media present when that’s happening.
What should one do?
Mayor Bell and City Councilman Lundy chose to act on the wise counsel of religious leaders in the community. The elected officials, who just two days before threatened to press charges against one-another after a violent exchange which sent both to area hospitals, hugged and made up on live television. They appeared sincere when apologizing and humbly asked for forgiveness. They fought like warring siblings, but reconciled by hugging like brothers.
By holding a press conference publicly making up, Mayor Bell and Councilman Lundy talked and acted more like squabbling family members whose emotions got the better of them, than violent men. Public reconciliation helped to alter the nation’s perceptions. Surrounded by clergymen, they appeared to be more like men who acted like middle-school boys and needed to be disciplined than violent criminals.
2015 Miss Universe Host Steve Harvey made a grave error when he announced on live television, the contest winner as Miss Colombia, who then completed her walk, crown and all. Harvey then retracted his statement, saying Miss Colombia was in fact the first runner-up. Miss Philippines was the actual winner. By quickly admitting his error rather than trying to blame anyone else, Harvey revealed his true character. He acted in a trustworthy way because he owned up to his mistake. The show received more publicity than ever because so many people used social media to tweet, comment and post about the incident.
So, what lesson can we learn from these public figures? If you are in front of a camera, on the radio, or a writer, blogger or publisher, you are a public figure.
Think and act as if the cameras and the microphones are always on. If you make a mistake, own up to it, apologize to those you have hurt, lick your wounds, and move on.