Happy Thanksgiving: The "Watch Your Back!" Edition

It’s become something of a Thanksgiving tradition for me to post this video of Sarah Palin from 2008.

The backstory: Shortly after her defeat in the 2008 general election, she visited a local turkey farm in Alaska to pardon a turkey. She was oblivious to the bloody turkey slaughter occurring behind her.

Sarah Palin Turkey
That’s far from the biggest gaffe a politician will ever commit—but the incongruity of the interview and the scene behind her is rather amusing to watch (the last sentence in particular catches my funny bone).

And as you’ll see from another couple of recent examples below, Governor Palin is far from the only person to forget to mind her background.

The Reject

Earlier this year, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited a butcher shop in outer Canberra to promote small business. But instead of covering his visit, the political media seized on an unfortunate photo snapped as he walked past the business next store, a discount store named “The Reject Shop.”

Tony Abbott The Reject


During the New England Patriots’ “deflategate” scandal earlier this year, Head Coach Bill Belichick and Quarterback Tom Brady (below) tried to take the air out of accusations they had intentionally deflated game balls during their AFC Championship Game win.

Unfortunately, it looked as if the Patriots’ PR staff didn’t consider the background both men would be standing in front of while denying the charge. As they spoke, an ad for Gillette’s “Flexball” razor served as their backdrop, an unfortunate coincidence noted by thousands of people on social media.

Tom Brady Gillette
The Lesson

Whenever you’re about to do a television interview, look behind you to see what the audience will see. If it’s something potentially embarrassing, ask the producer to change the shot or allow you to stand somewhere else.

Sometimes, a bad background isn’t as obvious as the ones above. Doing an interview in front of a busy intersection, for example, may lead to distracting views of pedestrians walking behind you and looking at the camera (or worse, mugging for the camera). You may not have control over that if you’re speaking to a third-party news outlet—but you do if you’re shooting the video yourself.

Finally, if you’re ever engulfed in a crisis, don’t stand anywhere near your company’s logo or wear it on your apparel. If you do, you will only reinforce through visuals that your brand is connected to an unfortunate scandal.

Learn more about selecting the right background—and much more—in The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. Available in paperback, for Kindle, and iPad.

Tony Abbott photo credit : Alex Ellinghausen