For pilots the rule is clear: Eight hours from bottle to throttle.

At least one tech company has provided general guidance for its sales pros: No outgoing emails after a second beer (or second glass of wine).

For communications choreographers there is no definitive edict, hopefully just instinctive common sense: Be at your wits as much as possible.


For the author of Almost DailyBrett, the personally imposed no second beer rule goes back to my days as the press secretary for former California Governor George Deukmejian. Besides the fact that the governor’s previous job was serving as the state’s attorney general (“California’s Top Cop”), there was the simple matter that media phone calls coming at any time; day or night; weekdays or weekends.

The phone rang at 1 am.

I sleepily answered: “Hello…”

“Sorry to bother you at home at this late hour (or early hour, si vous plait), but there has been an earthquake in Coalinga…”

Whenever you hear the phrase, “Sorry to bother you at home…,” you automatically know that you are on-the-record whether you are having a good day or bad day; a good night or bad night…and whatever your personal condition. I made it a point to always be in as close-to-possible perfectly sober condition.

At the risk of violating the dreaded too-much-information (TMI) rule, one morning I was in the shower. My wife knocked on the glass door and handed me the cordless phone. I turned off the water. It was KSDO Radio in San Diego wanting a morning drive-time comment from Governor Deukmejian’s press secretary at that exact (great acoustical) moment. It was my first and only au naturel stand-up and it was a good thing for the impressionable youth of San Diego that radio is not a visual medium.

As we are now being treated on a daily basis to real and/or perceived “gaffes” by President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney and quotable members of their respective staffs, we need to be reminded about what your mom told you about sleep and alcohol…You need oodles of the former and you must be careful with the latter.

Since taking the job as the governor’s press secretary (and watching him sign anti-drunk driving bill after anti-drunk driving bill into law), I have always tried to avoid the second beer or glass of wine. Truth be known, I am a relative light weight when it comes to alcohol. I also decline any alcohol at lunchtime with the infrequent exception of a college football tailgate party in the fall.

Think of it this way, it is tough enough to always be an effective and glib spokesperson/message developer for your employer, whether it be a governor, a chief executive officer or agency client. There are certain days when you are simply not bringing you’re “A-game” mentally, no matter how hard you try. The answer is to be always ready to perform to the best of your ability. You must be prepared to provide communications choreography counsel or to serve as a top spokesperson…and sometimes that translates into an on-the-spot, thinking-on-your-feet undertaking. Alcohol simply does not help, even though it may even give you liquid courage that you simply do not need or want.


At times, I would have nightmares about being summoned into Governor Deukmejian’s office to explain a flubbed quote in which evil alcohol contributed to my misstatement. He would have been perfectly justified in asking for my resignation. Fortunately, that nightmare was just that, a nightmare. I did have the experience of being called into the corner office to discuss my quotes, but mercifully that happened only twice and never because of exogenous intoxicants.

The purpose of my ramblings and recollections here is to counsel PR and communications counselors to avoid as much as possible multiple-drink “on background” briefings with key editors, analysts, bloggers etc. Should we use our best qualitative skills to nurture relationships with influential stakeholders? Absolutely. That is an essential part of our job. Should we avoid being overtly glib under the influence to the amusement of reporters and to the detriment of our boss? Natürlich.

Everyone in Sacramento back in the 1970s/1980s/1990s remembers the legendary B.T. Collins, an absolutely delightful wounded, highly decorated Vietnam vet, who as a Republican served as the chief of staff to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in his first tenure as California’s chief executive.


B.T. was being interviewed for a profile piece over ever-present drinks by feature writer Bella Stumbo of the Los Angeles Times. It must have been quite a night(s) at the watering hole(s). When the story came out, B.T. commented about how Jerry Brown was intellectually “out in Uranus half the time.”

He added that the grease on Brown’s “disgusting” follicly challenged hair (at the time) was so thick, “that the dandruff couldn’t get out.” B.T. reportedly offered his resignation when the story appeared. Brown to his credit declined to accept B.T.’s letter of resignation.

I am happy to report; I was never that colorful when serving as Governor Deukmejian’s press secretary. Sometimes bland and boring is a good thing.