Your Microphone is Always On


Testing…1-2-3. Is this on?

Given the hot topic of “hot” microphones and leaked recordings over the past week, today is a good time to remind anyone trying to build and maintain a strong personal brand about the importance of consistent and authentic brand communication.

In 1998, during my career as an actor and voiceover artist, I had the pleasure of doing the live voice announce for the opening ceremony of the Goodwill Games when they were held in New York. The Goodwill Games were an international sports competition created by media mogul, Ted Turner, in reaction to the political troubles surrounding the Olympic Games of the 1980s.

The opening ceremonies were situated in downtown NYC. I remember showing up for the day and seeing a long line of trailers that housed the command center for the global broadcast of the ceremony. I was escorted around the corner to what looked like an abandoned railroad car. Inside was a folding chair, table, microphone, headset and the script for the show. In addition, there was one other important item; an electronic box with one very big button that sat on the table in front of the chair. My instructions were as follows: When the director in my headset said “announce, go”, I was to hit the button to make my microphone live, and read my lines. When I finished my lines, I was directed to hit the button again to turn the microphone off.

I was always curious why they couldn’t turn my mic on from the main control room without my help, but I guess that was technology back in the 90’s. As I sat there during a brief rehearsal, I realized that if I hit the button at any time, I could talk to the world and say anything I wanted. What an amazing amount of power I had at that moment. What an amazing amount of responsibly. Hit a button, talk to the world, and have my words recorded forever.  I could have gone off script and said anything I wanted. Granted, I would have been pulled off the air never to work again, but I had that power and that choice.

This was way before twitter, and social media. Yet, in a mere 17 years, now every person with a smartphone has the chance to talk to the world with the push of a button. In addition, every person with a smartphone can now act as a reporter, camera operator, and network producer and decide to put what you say or do on the network, and not always with your approval.

I’ve seen college athletes lose scholarships for inappropriate tweets. I’ve seen employees of companies lose jobs due to off-brand actions captured on an iPhone. I’ve even witnessed salespeople immediately fired because of disparaging comments about clients during recorded conference calls, when the salespeople thought the phone was on mute.

We’ve seen powerful people over the last few years taken down because their words and actions captured in text, on video and in audio recordings were not consistent with the personal and professional brands they claimed to represent. So, in a world where you can be recorded and uploaded at any moment, it’s more important than ever to remember that you are a brand. Any comment, no matter how funny or off the cuff you think it may be, could affect your life, career and future ambitions. It will also affect the lives of those close to you such as family, friends, colleagues and even the organization you represent.

Once your words or actions are recorded, as we all know, they can be replayed forever. It may not affect you today, but it certainly will tomorrow. Your brand is your shadow and follows you wherever you go. So, before you communicate, ask yourself if your choice represents the best version of yourself. Is this comment, declaration or action consistent with the “true you” and the beliefs and values of the brand you want to communicate to the world? You have one brand – 24/7, because there is no separation between the private and the public anymore. And, whether you push the button or not, whether you like it or not, you are always on.

Stand for Your Brand,

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PS – You may already know how to consistently communicate as a 24/7 brand, but if you have a child or grandchild in school or college, please feel free to share this message with them. Sometimes an outside voice is a good reminder to reinforce the lessons you are already teaching.



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