We’re All on a Hot Mic


(By James Bahm) The story last week about the two individuals who were fired for their comments caught on a hot mic not only cost them their jobs, but Steve Shaw was booted from the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.  Our words and actions have consequences, though all too often it’s the on-air talent that seems to pay the price most often.

How many of you in sales think you are in the crosshairs and on a hot mic?

When you work for a radio station, people notice you, they watch your actions and words closer than if you were an office assistant at some company anywhere else.  Being in someone’s spotlight is part of the gig whether you host the morning show, manage an account list, or work in accounting.  One thing we tend to forget: Everyone we come in contact with has a video camera and voice recorder in their pocket, and their finger is one app away from making a post and having your comments and actions potentially reach the entire world before you get to your next stop.  Or at the very least, they could send a text to numerous friends and business owners telling them not to do business with you or your station.

I have been in countless meetings, or sales calls where someone made an off-hand joke or comment that never should have been uttered and it was fortuitous that nothing came of it, most of the time, though there were instances where the individual was disciplined.  When a client, or potential client, makes an utterance we have the choice of walking away and not returning – sorry, if they are going to make those comments to me, I don’t want to put them on the air and subject my audience to the same treatment – and neither should you.  No sale is worth potentially alienating your audience.

When we are in meetings, a good best practice is to turn on your voice recorder so you can listen to yourself back so you can make improvements on your delivery.  You may even hear a question that you missed during the meaning, and maybe pick up on something your client said that you didn’t acknowledge the first time.  And if you can turn your recorder on before the meeting starts, your clients can too.

There was a song some years ago by Glen Campbell, Susan Ashton, and Paul Overstreet called What’s Going Without Saying Should Be Said, and that’s good advice: Watch what you say.  Whether you’re in a C.N.A., at the grocery, working on-air for the lowest rated station in the country, or making comments during a basketball game: Someone is always listening.

In my book, Don’t Yuck My Yum, I made this comment in reference to sending an email; however, it’s even more relevant in this society that is waiting to throw anyone under the bus for the least little transgression: is what you are about to say worth potentially losing your career over?  No joke is worth it, nor is a comment about what someone is wearing, or how someone looks.  YouTube is full of videos of individuals who thought they were making a comment no one was paying attention to.  How did that go for them?   When they do issue an apology, rarely does it make any difference because the court of public opinion has already made up its mind on the verdict.

It is so easy to let our ego win the momentary battle because it wants to be right than it is to bite our tongue and stay silent and reap long-term rewards.  When there is an injustice or someone is being mistreated, shout it from the mountain tops and fight to right the wrongs we encounter; however, when it’s not relevant and no one will care about what was said six seconds from now, it is far wiser to stay silent and let it go.

When I was younger, my father taught me the Mark Twain quote that it’s better to not say anything and let others think you’re an idiot than it is to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Bottom Line: Keeping your silence today is better than issuing an apology tomorrow that no one will hear.

James Bahm is the author of Don’t Yuck My Yum – a Professional Development and Sales & Marketing book – which is available on amazon.com.  He can be reached via email: [email protected]



  1. Radio 101: Always assume a mic is “live”. Some of the best “bloopers” are recorded “live mic” style…set up the mic and roll tape or start the feed first before anything else.


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