28 April: With six days to polling day, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown (picture courtesy PA) left is caught on microphone calling Gillian Duffy, 65, a "bigoted woman" following a conversation with her in Rochdale. Media chaos ensues when he visits her to apologise.
It is common practice when politicians are doing “walkabouts” for them to be fitted with a radio microphone supplied by one of the broadcasters, in this case Sky News.
One of his PR minders forgot to turn the microphone off.
According to reports a small microphone would have been clipped to Mr Brown’s lapel, with a wire running to a battery pack on his belt, which in turn transmitted the audio back to the camera crew.
The alternative is to use a large boom microphone, but this requires an additional technician to carry it around and results in patchier sound quality.
Sky News said that Mr Brown left in his car before the microphone could be removed and switched off.
Did this incident cause Gordon Brown to lose the UK election?
It certainly had an impact. Why?
1. He lost his credibility
2. It caused mistrust amongst voters
3. It distracted from his key policy and election messages
4. It impacted negatively on his reputation
5. He was forced to apologise
6. It was covered in media all around the world and dominated media coverage and was "the defining moment and image of the election"
7. It was played over and over again
8. It was an uncontrolled message
9. It came at a critical time in the election phase
10. It was what people will remember about him
The key learning - always assume any microphone is on, for leaders there is no "off" and never be critical of anyone - always be gracious and respectful.
Here's how the story unfolded.
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Labels: crisis management, dealing with the media, Gordon Brown, how to use a microphone, microphone technique, public relations disaster, UK election 2010, what to say in front of a microphone