What Not To Say – Spaeth Bimbo Awards

Low angle view of a businesswoman giving a speech from behind a podiumPeople say the dumbest things.  At Spaeth Communications we call them (the comments, not the people) BIMBOs — although more often than not the two go hand in hand.

One of the first lessons we teach our clients at Spaeth is to not repeat and deny a negative word or phrase because the listener filters out the denial and hears the exact opposite of what the speaker’s intent.

The category (created by firm founder Merrie Spaeth) was named for a woman, who after getting caught in a tryst with a high-profile married man, announced to the world, “I am not a Bimbo,” causing the public to believe that she actually was.

In honor of her comment, Spaeth puts out a memo outlining the top BIMBO comments of each month. (Thanks to politicians, athletes and lawyers my job as the editor is all too easy.) At the end of the year, we pick our favorite BIMBO and crown it the year’s winner.

And so, without further delay, I’m proud to present the 2009 BIMBO Awards. (Drum roll, please…)

Dishonorable Mentions:

“Ben has never sexually assaulted anyone, especially Andrea McNulty,” said the lawyer for Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was accused of sexual assault.

(This is a good case for not letting your lawyer be your spokesperson.)

Employee meetings in Las Vegas are not a “junket, a boondoggle, a waste, (or for) highly paid executives,” as explained in full-page Wells Fargo ads placed prominently in The New York Times. (Ah, the banking industry on the defense. What cost more taxpayer dollars, a meeting in Vegas or a full-page ad in The New York Times?)

3rd Runner-Up:

“I’m here to tell you right off the bat that I’m not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing,” said former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. (Once again, said with a straight face. Rod was a 2009 repeat winner. You’d think someone would have told him to shut up.)

2nd Runner-Up:

Profit is not satanic,” said Barclays’ Chief Executive John Varley, joining a number of heads of global banks claiming that they’ve been misunderstood. (Because bringing Satan’s name into the mix is always a good idea.)

1st Runner- Up:

“I know it wasn’t rape-rape. I think it was something else but I don’t believe it was rape-rape,” said Whoopi Goldberg about the conviction of film director Roman Polanski for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl.  (I read somewhere that “rape-rape” was one of the top phrases that should be permanently banned.)

And The Winner is…

For the first time ever, Team Tiger wins for what they didn’t say. It’s clear now that those around him—including his manager—gave him bad advice, acted as enablers and covered for Tiger’s bad behavior.

The entire debacle was flooded with classic BIMBO comments, but my favorite was, “I’m not a whoreannounced by Tiger’s alleged mistress, Rachel Uchitel. She even managed to get our favorite negative word “bimbo” in her full quote.

I’m looking forward to what’s ahead in 2010.  If you come across any BIMBOs (and I know you will) send them my way! To sign up for the monthly BIMBO memo, visit www.spaethcom.com.

And please, don’t repeat negative words…ever.

Spaeth Communications, Inc. is recognized as a leader in the communications field for its innovative training, strategic consulting and dynamic speakers. Led by firm founder Merrie Spaeth, and celebrating its 23rd anniversary, Spaeth Communications developed an approach that analyzes and details techniques for influencing what a target audience will remember.

Katie Hiatt is an associate at Dallas-based Spaeth Communications, where she specializes in communication consulting and crisis management. She has worked for clients in a wide variety of industries including banking, sports, healthcare and retail. Before joining Spaeth, Katie gained experience in the magazine industry and politics. Although she is a proud Texan, a piece of her will always lie east of The Mississippi at Ole Miss where she graduated Magna Cum Laude.

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  • classic!! thanks for the Friday entertainment combined with a very important lesson!

  • keithtrivitt

    Katie – Thanks for these hilarious yet incredibly important reminders of why our PR counsel and media training is so important for clients and executives. Great stuff!

  • Awesome point! The human brain is SO hardwired to latch onto the most sensational words, which is how we end up with silly catchphrases like “death panels.” How about the most famous BIMBO of them all: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman!”

  • Katie love this post.

    In college, a professor was a former FBI PIO and taught Crisis Communications. She must've drilled that this into our heads, “never repeat and deny”.

    It's simple and not hard to understand but we see it *all* the time.

    Thanks again!

  • missmotorcade

    this is fantastic! such a great lesson & fabulous examples to illustrate the point. i can't wait for next month's BIMBO newsletter! just signed up…

  • Simple to remember and HILARIOUS. Love this post, Katie. Happy Friday!

  • Katie –

    Great post and a wonderful lesson, particularly well delivered with humor. I actually touched on a similar topic in a post a few weeks back – http://prbreakfastclub.com/2009/10/20/balloon-a

    Glad to see the same lesson from someone actually working in crisis work :-D.

  • Thanks, everyone! Negative words are so memorable and travel so fast, it’s best to avoid them altogether. Normally, BIMBO comments are surrounded by otherwise “good” messages, but no one hears them.

  • Great advice in your post. The balloon boy posse needs some serious guidance. The dad told Larry King “This was not a hoax.”

  • Melanie Morris

    This is a great post! It is truly amazing what these public figures are willing to say – you would think they would know better by now!

  • jeffespo

    I love this post. So is Rape-Rape more of a crime than rape? Anyone have the contact for Whoopi? I'd like to ask

  • Anonymous

    No, the caterogy was created long ago by Richard Nixon when he said, “I am not a crook.”

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