Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Learn from Those Who Chase the Spotlight

It’s our job to help people and companies monitor media attention or manage potentially harmful coverage, so when somebody seems to crave the public eye for all the wrong reasons, it piques our interest.

The latest dubious episode of shamelessly courting the spotlight is the couple now known as the White House party crashers. Tareq and Michaele Salahi claim they were invited guests to the exclusive state dinner. The White House says otherwise.

In recent months, it seems self-imposed public embarrassment has reached new extremes. First there was Jon and Kate, willing to expose their questionable parenting and marital skills to a national audience. Then there was the infamous “balloon boy” saga, which brought bad parenting for the sake of fame to new heights. And now, there are the White House “Don’t Call Us Party Crashers” party crashers.

As the e-mails between a White House representative and the Salahis come to light, it is still uncertain how an uninvited couple could arrive and be admitted to a high-security, invite-only event. The lines of truth are blurry. Could they have been confused about being welcomed at the event? Is this just a reality television stunt for Bravo’s show “Real Housewives of D.C.”?

What these people, so eager for attention, seem to overlook is how uncomfortable and potentially incriminating it is to find oneself caught in a lie. It’s not very becoming – or legal, for that matter – to come uninvited to a White House dinner or to make your child lie to officials after pretending all day that he was stuck in a balloon when you knew perfectly well he was safe at home.

We think of these episodes as good teaching moments for our clients and blog readers. Not that we expect anybody we know to pretend that his kid is in a balloon 7,000 feet in the air or sneak into President Obama’s parties. But on a smaller level, these fiascos are still relevant. Remember that video, images and audio recordings can all be transmitted much more easily these days than they used to be. If you think you’re leaving a private voicemail to a colleague or friend’s phone, think again. It can always be made public with the click of a button. The line between public and private grows blurrier by the day. Something you might want your friends only to know about (say, a slightly embarrassing photograph of you on Facebook), could easily slip out of your control and end up in the public sphere. Just ask Tiger Woods.

Posted by Hillary Rhodes

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