“If you have to backtrack, you need to ask yourself, why did you put it out there in the first place?” That’s what Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show, would like to know. She was speaking about being funny on Twitter at an event last month, but her question addresses a broader issue: more celebrities and brands have had to backtrack recently after making controversial comments on various media platforms.
We’re referring to statements or tweets that veer off message, not major blunders that require full-scale apology tours. These foot-in-mouth comments and retractions occur so frequently that the Plain English Campaign established a Foot in Mouth award to highlight “a baffling comment by a public figure”. Mitt Romney lost his presidential bid, but he won the award last year.
With so much material to choose from, we took a closer look to better understand the dynamics. The selected faux pas highlighted below serve as cautionary tales of how easy it is for messages to go awry and reminders to avoid that happening.
1. Being too authentic can cause real trouble. Former Boston Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis, acquired by the Yankees during the off-season, said “I’ll always be a Red Sock” during an early spring training interview. It’s clear that he meant what he said, since he has strong Boston ties. (New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is his brother-in-law). Youkilis’ problem was speaking his true feelings without first hitting the pause button to consider his new team’s reaction.