So your joke about the black one-legged lesbian did not go down well on the Today programme, and even though you rendered John Humphrys speechless, the media have found their voice and are camped outside your home right now demanding a statement.
Shooting your mouth off without thinking is what got you into this mess. So think very carefully about exactly what your statement is going to be before you make it. Shorter is better, consider every word, and remember it will be read and repeated by people who have a vested interest in making you look worse than you are. So be as unambiguous as the English language will allow.
DO SAY ‘My comments were taken out of context.’
DON’T SAY ‘I was joking.’
DO SAY ‘I spoke clumsily and I am sorry.’
DON’T SAY ‘Yes, but – ‘
DO SAY ‘[Insert ‘-ism’ here] is something I take seriously.’
DON’T SAY ‘It’s political correctness gone mad.’
DO SAY ‘I’m old enough to know better.’
DON’T SAY ‘In my day…’
DO SAY what changes you will make.
DON’T SAY you are digging your heels in.
Do the DOs and you might survive – if you’ve put in the work to build a good reputation. Do the DON’Ts and prepare for dole queue: besides divine intervention or an act of heroism in a burning orphanage, nothing can save you now. But take some small comfort: in today’s fast-paced news environment, your name will quickly be forgotten by most people.
Only you, your closest friends, and Google will know the truth.
For more great advice on speaking to audiences, read Insider Secrets of Public Speaking.