Aflac fired Gilbert Gottfried after the so-called comedian made crude, tasteless jokes on Twitter about the Japanese earthquake/tsunami disaster.
In case you didn’t know, Gottfried was the voice of the company’s signature spokesduck for many years.
It’s not the first time that a major company fired a voiceover talent due to the talent’s remarks that reflected badly on the company. In April, 2010, D.C. Douglas left a politically-charged voice mail message as a private citizen that set off a media frenzy. The negative public attention and pressure from the political group caused GEICO to fire him from a new campaign.
What can we learn from these 2 scenarios?
1. Although you work on a freelance basis, you should consider yourself to be your client’s employee.
Voice talents generally know about conflicts of interest. You shouldn’t voice a script for a competing product in the same market.
However, we need to take the employee stance even further. Since anything you do could reflect on s/he who pays your invoice, it’s in your best interest to avoid doing anything that even has the hint of impropriety. If you’ve never read an employee code of conduct manual, take a look at this sample document to see the wide range of attributes expected of an employee. You may find ways to improve your dealings with your clients.
For instance, many scripts are now arriving with a non-disclosure agreement in which the talent promises they will not share their involvement in any form, including posts on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. If you always acted like an employee, you wouldn’t risk disclosing proprietary information about your clients.
2. A little integrity goes a long way.
Integrity is defined as a soundness of moral character and honesty. Its synonyms are virtue and honor.
In my voiceover business, integrity means that I won’t voice scripts that are dishonorable, like political ads that attack an opponent rather than discuss the plans of the candidate in the ad. I compare any script to my moral compass to decide whether I will perform it. I won’t voice a script just for the money.
Integrity also means treating other people with kindness and respect, something Gottfried apparently overlooks in favor of making jokes at others’ expense.
3. Words have creative power.
I believe so strongly in the power of our words that I led a session about it last month at Faffcon. You can use words to build up or tear down yourself or others. Since you always have a choice about the words you think, say, and write, why would you choose to create more negativity in the world?
4. What you put out in the world comes back to you.
I usually tell people that the energy you put out comes back to you in a way better than you could expect. In those instances, I am talking about productive actions that propel one toward achieving their dreams.
However, this theory holds true even for those counterproductive actions that destroy dreams. In those cases, the negative energy will also come back to you in a way you probably didn’t expect. The key is to decide beforehand whether the action enhances life or diminishes it.
Many people don’t seem to realize that the creative power of their words coupled with a broadcast medium (TV or Internet) can cause the energy to come back in an exponential form, either positively or negatively. As I’ve written previously, the words you write on-line live on into perpetuity. I am continuously shocked by the things that I’ve seen other voiceover talent post on various sites, particularly a few vicious flame wars in one LinkedIn voiceover forum.
When a celebrity write on-line, the power of the words is magnified. In Gottfried’s case, the venom he spewed into the world came back to him in the form of intensely angry public feedback and the loss of a lucrative, long-term gig.
Even if you don’t believe that doing good things in the world will attract good things to you, you’ll never know for sure unless you give it a try. Besides, I’m pretty sure that Aflac will be looking for someone who radiates with positive energy when they begin their nationwide search for a new voice for their quirky quacker.