Principles you can learn from the mistakes that Steve Harvey made from his Internal Communications Memo

Steve Harvey

A memo that reads,”For your eyes only?” Not in showbiz.

On May 10, 2017, Chicago media blog leaked a harshly worded internal memo sent by talk show host Steve Harvey to all “Steve Harvey Show” employees at the start of this year’s season. The memo uses strong language to air Harvey’s grievances around a lack of privacy in Chicago’s NBC Tower and requires employees to make an appointment with Harvey prior to any direct contact.

IF YOU OPEN MY DOOR, EXPECT TO BE REMOVED,” the memo reads, before listing several other studio locations Harvey claims to be regularly “ambush[ed]” by NBC staff. It closes, “If you’re reading this, yes, I mean you. Everyone, do not take offense to the new way of doing business. It is for the good of my personal life and enjoyment.”

Following widespread social media blowback and news coverage of the memo, Harvey did not issue an official apology, although he did express some regret in an “Entertainment Tonight” exclusive, admitting, “In hindsight, I probably should’ve handled it a little bit differently.”

In sending the inflammatory memo, Harvey missed several key internal communications principles that communicators should keep front of mind for the next time a sensitive document is leaked to the media.

Andy Gilman, president and CEO of CommCore Consulting Group in Washington, D.C., who advises communications leaders on crisis management and communications practices both internal and external, lays out three basic internal communications principles Harvey missed when drafting and sending the memo:

  • Nothing is private in this world. You must assume any memo you send electronically or even as a hard copy will eventually get out to the public.
  • Watch your tone. How tone-deaf can you be? Harvey’s memo bordered on offensive to his staff. He may be a busy guy—the Ryan Seacrest of 2017, even—but there are better ways to say “Hey guys, can you respect my privacy and my specific needs?”
  • A second pair of eyes is a must. Have a colleague review all staff communications before they go out. If somebody had checked Harvey’s memo before it was sent, it would have been stopped.


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