A Positive Image
Starts With Media Training
Do you think reporters are out to get you or your team?
Do you go out of your way to avoid the media?
Do you pray the media won't come to your locker and ask questions?
Do you get nervous or uptight when reporters ask you questions?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions then you are a candidate for media training.
WHAT IS MEDIA TRAINING?
Media training teaches you how reporters operate and what they are thinking. It shows you how and why you should control every interview. It teaches you techniques so that you have the advantage whenever you speak to a reporter. Most importantly it gives you a chance to practice your skills and get immediate feedback on what you can do to improve your media and interview skills.
Many of you may say, I talk to reporters all the time, I don't need this. Well, you've played sports since you were a kid, yet you still train and practice so you are ready for the next game and season. So, using your logic about reporters, you shouldn't need to practice sports at all. While many of you have experience with the media, it doesn't mean you are getting the most out of that experience. You can dominate reporters like you dominate your opponents -- wouldn't that be refreshing?
A common misconception among athletes is that you think the media is out to get you. 99.9% of the time that is not the case. Most reporters are professionals trying to do a tough job just like everyone else. If you treat them with respect, they will respond in-kind.
Reporters need you to make their story interesting, and alienating you to get one story will not be beneficial to their careers. Without your input, their stories are based solely on the score and what they saw. They gain the upper hand when they define you. Your input adds the meat to their stories and makes it interesting for their viewers, listeners and readers. By learning to control an interview, you control the message instead of the reporter. Media training teaches you how to take advantage of this opportunity, putting yourself, your team and your organization in the best possible position to win the media game.
However, much like you will take advantage of an opponent's weakness on the field - a turnover, injury, or something tendency they have - reporters will take advantage of opportunities too. Your job is not to let them. You do this by both eliminating those opportunities and knowing how to mitigate them when they occur.
Media training is an insurance policy to protect you from saying things you shouldn't or didn't mean to say and it gives you the skills you need to handle yourself in a variety of situations. Like anything in sports, the more a skill is practiced, the better you will be at handling the pressure when the cameras are rolling and the questions are coming from reporters.
GAIN CONFIDENCE AND CASH
You probably crave being the "go-to person" when the game is on the line. You have practiced that moment since you were a little kid playing in the backyard. The essence of sports is being able to handle pressure at the critical point of a game.
Do you like facing the media after you've failed to deliver in that situation? Anyone can go in and babble about winning the game or stopping the game winning play if they are on the victorious side, but it shows you have character if you can do as well when you are not successful. You have to be able to come down off the adrenaline rush or pick yourself up from despair, get your message across, speak clearly and be polite.
Aside from the confidence and comfort of being in front of the cameras in difficult situations, as an athlete you have a lot to gain from your public image. If you are thought of as a good person and have the ability to convey messages well, you will be a prime candidate for endorsement opportunities. This means cash in your pocket.
Almost every athlete that you see in commercials who has endorsement deals is also very well-spoken and in-control when they deal with the media. Very few people are naturally gifted speakers who do well with the media without media training, and athletes are no exception. Ask the guys you know who are in the commercials how many have gone through media training.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE?
No one likes being embarrassed by what they have said, or wants to see a terrible interview the did, or have something they said be taken out of context, only to see it replayed hundreds of times on ESPN or FOX Sports Net, but it happens almost daily. Every sportscast has a segment set aside for controversial material, or reactions to controversy. Once in that media space it is hard to escape until someone else does something as, or more, controversial and takes the attention away from you.
No company wants to associate itself with an athlete that can't speak well, that loses his cool under pressure, or that can't handle interviews with the media. Companies will Google you and they will conduct due diligence into your background to make sure they are making a sound business decision before investing in having you represent their products. Look at all the endorsement opportunities that gone away immediately after athletes become embroiled in controversy and don't react well publicly to the situation. You have a lot to lose.
EMOTIONS DO NOT GIVE YOU AN ADVANTAGE
Emotions are big part of sports, but they, like revenge, are best served cold. It is it not a good idea to let emotions dictate your encounters with the media because when you are emotional - happy or sad - you tend to ramble and say things you later wish you hadn't. For example, ever made a late-night call to an old girlfriend and then gnaw your arm off while trying to slide out of the room the next morning?
On the field you separate yourself from your emotions all the time. You overcome distractions, anger, despair, even celebration to perform in the game. You need to learn how to do the same thing in the press room. After a game or practice, walk away, take a few minutes to compose yourself, cool down, wipe the sweat off, hydrate, and then go to the press room -- reporters will wait for you. This will help you regain the advantage and put you in the best position to control the interview.
PUBLIC PERCEPTION MATTERS
Ask the next ten people you run into on the street who won the last NBA Championship, NCAA Final Four and maybe even the Super Bowl. If a third of them get two of the three answers right, I'd be greatly surprised. Then ask them what they remember about sports from this year, and I bet there won't be any hesitation -- steroids, dog fighting, drug testing, domestic violence and assault and battery.
These topics have dominated the coverage of the sports world over the last 9 months, and they are reinforced daily with stories of more violence and arrests. In an industry where wins and losses dictate enormous profits for both owners and players, it should be a wake-up call to the sports industry that wins and losses - and even the breaking of the most storied record in sports, the lifetime home run total -- have not made as much news as the controversies that have engulfed every sport from baseball to cycling. It is indicative of how far society has come and where it is going. It's all about the "wow and now" and the media is more than willing to give the public what they want.
TAKE CONTROL - WIN THE MEDIA GAME
The media has never been more important to an athlete than it is right now. What does this mean for athletes? You need to realize this and prepare yourself accordingly. It takes years to build a reputation, but less than ten seconds to destroy it.
You must be prepared to speak to the media at all times. You should learn how to come across confident, comfortable, and in-control of every question - controversial or mundane -- during every interview, every time. You can prepare yourself by taking media training as seriously as studying game film.
You are the only one who can take control of this part of your career. You can choose to distinguish yourself from other athletes who don't see the value of being able to control an interview. It is up to you to invest the time it takes to protect and project a positive image.
If you don't, the next time you stumble when a reporter asks you a question you don't want to answer, you will remember this article and think, "Damn, I should have done media training." Call me before. Call me after. But make sure you call me. I can help.
Kevin Long is President of MVP Sports Media Training. He has worked with several thousand athletes, coaches, and team execs across the country. Kevin can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about sports media training, visit: www.sportsmediatraining.com.