PR 101 – is anything ever really 'off the record'?

As a journalist I was taught that nothing is ever off the record.

In the high pressure, fast paced world of media, getting a good story was always paramount.

If I was told something by a contact, I was taught to find another source to substantiate the story if I was inclined enough to want to protect my source.

Discovering 'news' and gaining recognition with my peers, editors and readers for being first with a story was always a buzz.

But I never felt comfortable compromising my integrity and it held me back.

Thesedays, I tell clients that however well they get on with the media, off the cuff or indiscreet comments when the microphone is off or the notebook has been put away does not mean a story won't be reported.

It's in our nature to share information and even the most cynical usually want to trust those who say the right things and act cordially.

But as we've seen this week, it gets even more basic than that.

One of the absolute basics of media training is to ensure that any private conversations remain private.

That means, in simple terms, not just watching what you say in front of the media, but making sure no one can overhear your private chats.

There are many who would suggest that the moment Gordon Brown lost the 2010 General Election was when he was overheard making indiscreet comments about a voter who had challenged him. (Watch it here)

Clearly the pressure was getting to him and his reaction showed a man broken by the enormity of such a gaffe.

But while Brown was never as comfortable with the public duties of politics, it was a surprise to see Barack Obama caught out this week.

The US President, speaking to Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, left his microphone on and was heard talking about weapons and the US election later this year. (Watch it here)

It has been widely reported and rightly so, causing embarrassment to the Obama administration.

Fortunately for him, and unlike Brown, he said nothing that made him appear insincere or spiteful, so he will no doubt ride out the minor controversy.

But it's a reminder to everyone facing the media: never let your guard down while the media are in the vicinity.

It's their job to take advantage of any slip-ups you may make, so don't make it easy for them.

It's not just Obama and Brown who make mistakes, as you can see here .