The great Saturday Night Live punchline is: Beneath the gags, its absurd characters are very real people, with very real power. As such, it was no surprise that Melissa McCarthy’s brilliantly-executed Sean Spicer imitation led to the even more hotly anticipated satire of the White House’s most recent (but no longer) Director of Communications, Anthony ‘The Mooch’ Scaramucci.
However, while the average viewer/politico was anticipating just how Scaramucci was going to be satirised, the communications professional in the room was wondering just how not only one, but two media spokespeople became the sources of comedy in the first place. Traditionally, the comms maestro was the mastermind behind-the-scenes, seldom mocked because sighting were limited. And yet, undeniably, Scaramucci’s rise to this state of fame is essentially due to his disastrously minimal period in office, even being fired before his official swearing in. And now the communications industry has become adrenalised with new questions. One might as well be: if I’m entering a communications role for the first time, how will I last longer than ten days?
So, if this is your first time in a communications role, and you’re wondering what you should avoid doing, here’s a list of ‘don’ts’ for your first couple of weeks on the job (inspired by ‘The Mooch’ himself).
- Tone down the brashness if you’re a spokesperson
Numerous former White House Communications Directors have told PR Week that Scaramucci’s overly-brazen personality was a key influencer behind his firing. But his far-from-modest nature extended beyond simply the administration and entered the press itself. A reporter from the New York Daily News wrote that “Scaramucci is everything we hate about arrogant Wall Streeters”, and that “at his first news conference, his body language was so aggressively Wall Street.” Difficult relationships with journalists damage the reputation of the organisation before you can even make a statement. It’s important to understand that healthy relationships with journalists are essential.
- Don’t take your internal problems to Social Media
One week after being announced as Sean Spicer’s replacement, Scaramucci deemed it best to complain via Twitter that his government financial disclosure form had been leaked. His tweet: a merciless tirade against both White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Trump aide Steve Bannon. While Twitter may be the cathartic resort, social media opens a spotless window to both journalistic and public opinion. This can lead to the spreading of theories that clients simply cannot afford to have publicised. Social media can ruin a campaign before the next stage can take place, or even before a counter-statement can be published. As a spokesperson, you’re a living, breathing microscope showcasing the inner workings of an organisation: Everything posted across social media can be analysed beyond its original intended meaning and opinions will spread faster than wildfire.
- Don’t act in an unprofessional manner
In the same article, the BBC discusses how Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, told reporters after Scaramucci’s tirade that “he used some colourful language that I don’t anticipate he’ll do again”. Indeed, ‘The Mooch’ was notorious throughout his brief ten-day stint as an avid dropper of F-bombs. The language we may associate with the working floors of Wall Street was transferred directly into the most scrutinised office in the world. As a Director of Communications, you’re the first line of defense for your client. The press seize all language, clean or explicit, and you can expect your words to impart to the public a persona that intensely reflects your organisation’s internal mechanisms. The spokesperson serves as a window, not a mirror, and the clarity of the message directly affects how clear this window is. If you provide quotes, never underestimate their potential to become the foremost definition of an individual or body. And in the nature of the media’s all-powerful, all-analysing self, any controversial language will not be spared.