When your personal life is a potential PR disaster

Yesterday I was preaching to Edelman staffers and then a clutch of senior HK comms executives on the complete disappearance of the line between the personal and professional you. On cue, PR disasters from all over the world – NFL ball player Vick’s ‘fighting dogs’ antics and now a senior British golf official’s inept after-dinner speaking skills – back my point that your behaviour in your private life can sorely impact your professional reputational standing. Like I said yesterday, all of us (especially in PR) need to be in the ‘character management’ business as well as in the ‘reputation management’ side of things, too.

So, via the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper, a senior member (Graham Brown) of golf’s governing body and member of the R&A’s Rules of Golf Committee, was guest speaker at the Association of Golf Writers’ dinner. Rather than speak appropriately given the event’s honourable status, Brown horrified the gathering with a joke about Japanese players all looking the same, also referring to them as “nips”. He told another about a black taxi driver in a Deep South accent. Then he had a go at the disabled with an ill-judged story about a deaf golfer playing with an opponent with a cleft palette. “He went down like a lead balloon,” said one attendee. “It was like a Bernard Manning tribute night,” said another. Peter Dawson, the respected chief executive of golf’s ruling body, could be seen with his head in his hands at Brown’s comments. American golf writer Art Spander said: “Such insulting comments about ethnic groups are just not acceptable in today’s society.”

While a statement from the AGW read: “The Association of Golf Writers regret that offence was caused at its annual dinner and apologises unreservedly to the guests and members”, shouldn’t this guy be censured as much as Ron Atkinson or Michael Richards?

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