THINK before you speak. Those that did and those that didn’t


Fixed on a colleague’s desk is a postit note: THINK before you speak.

Before you utter a word: Is it True; is it Helpful; is it Inspiring; is it Necessary: is it Kind?

While Donald Trump is currently providing ample proof of the need to heed this advice, there are many other examples of things that shouldn’t have been said, things that people wish they hadn’t said and (thankfully) things that have been well said. Here’s a few:

Things that shouldn’t have been said:

The urge to say something ‘clever’ invariably comes across as either flippant or misguided or plain wrong when it appears in print.

Pete Wishart, the MP for Perth and North Perthshire and reigning Parliamentary Tweeter of the Year, should have resisted that urge, instead he called anti-independence Scots “nawbags” . An offensive remark he has since regretted.

He tweeted it and then went on the defensive. He blamed the press for making such it such a big deal and claimed that everyone who tweets is making these mistakes. “It was meant as humour although it wasn’t accepted as humour. It’s still remembered almost two years after doing it but we’re all going to do this.”

Think first and then there is no need for excuses.

Things that people wished they hadn’t said:

There are few things the media loves more than the moment when someone well-known is caught out making an unguarded or ridiculous comment.

There are many occasions when political figures have been caught off-guard, particularly when the cameras were rolling or the microphones had not been turned off.

One of the latest examples was Conservative veteran Ken Clarke who was caught on camera in June this year describing Theresa May as a “bloody difficult woman” and predicting that Michael Gove as prime minister would go to war with three countries at once, as he made a series of unguarded remarks about Conservative leadership candidates.

He was recorded after giving a television interview to Sky News as he had a conversation with Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, apparently unaware that the camera was rolling.

The moral of the story is to think before you speak and especially before and after live interviews – not least because it’s your reputation that is on the line.

And things that have been well said

When dealing with issues or a story that can impact personal or corporate reputation, what is required is a well-constructed response that closes the matter down.

Donald Trump Jr likened the refugee crisis to a bowl of Skittles – “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take handful?”

Denise Young, vice-president of corporate affairs for Wrigley America responded: “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people,” she said. “We don’t feel it is an appropriate analogy,” she added. “We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.”

Done. Sorted.

If you would like media training or advice on well-crafted media statements contact us on 0131 554 1230.

Felicity MacFarlane is an Account Director at Indigo