Jeremy Lin Is Trending: What Shouldn’t You Say?
By David Armon, President, Critical Mention
We all know people with strong personal filters and others with a tendency to over-share.
Finding the perfect mix of spontaneity and responsibility has long been a challenge for talent scouts sourcing standup comedians, talk show hosts and newscasters. Now individuals possessing those ready-for-prime-time attributes are being sought by CMOs and CCOs as brands of all shapes and sizes start becoming media companies.
Being chief storyteller carries tremendous risk.
Last week, ESPN suspended anchor Max Bretos for using the term “chink in the armor” during a live interview with basketball analyst Walt Frazier about the performance of the Taiwanese-American Knicks superstar Jeremy Lin.
Many believe the use of the phrase was an unintentional coincidence in a story concerning an Asian athlete. But ESPN management relied on Bretos’s personal filter while he was in the anchor chair. Unfortunately, his filter was down for maintenance.
Bretos was in good company using the phrase “chink in the armor.” A search of the Critical Mention archive reveals it had been spoken 734 times on TV and radio in 2011.
Since so many people used the term so often, without it having a derogatory context, it points to a risk faced by non-media brands who employ social media community managers and PR pros to build their brands on the bleeding edge of real-time content.
When a new name or topic starts trending – like Lin did in February (as both the infographic below and MentionMeter illustrate) – anyone jumping into the news stream should have a high degree of cultural awareness around the language and issues associated with the trending topic that are insensitive or downright incendiary.
The first person to market with a standardized test to measure an applicant’s inherent political correctness and cultural sensitivity – are they just garden variety snarky or downright inappropriate? – will make some serious cash selling it to brands, media and publishers.
Until we can screen for dumb slips of the tongue or brain, it’s up to those managing external communications functions to carefully examine the risk associated with each hot new trend or news story.