With Super Bowl media day at hand, Marshawn Lynch, the media shy Seattle Seahawk, can expect more attention for what he does NOT say than what he DOES say.
In the past the NFL has issued fines as high as $100,000 for Lynch, because he didn’t want to talk to the media.
Can Marshawn’s media phobia be fixed?
“Fixing” people like Lynch is what I’ve done behind the scenes for organizations since 1996. People are dumbfounded when they find out I make a living by training people to be comfortable when talking to the media. But as a former reporter who has witnessed people say dumb things to me on too many days, I decided there were things I could share to help people get comfortable and say the right thing to a reporter.
Here’s what I’ve learned…
A situation like Lynch’s requires much more than a Washington, D.C. or New York City spin doctor who wants to throw out their conventional “three key messages.” They usually provide lessons on how to stay on message and how to bridge back to their messages if a reporter gets you off track.
A media trainer should have expert training skills combined with expert skills in identifying personality types, with the ability to pinpoint what deep seeded issues may be affecting Lynch’s willingness to speak to the media.
Many executives will confess secrets to me in confidence during media interview training. These confessions help me work through issues, such as past speech impediments, being an introvert, or having a personality based upon humility rather than bragging.
The rules for athletes, from professional football players to golfers, are the same.
Here are 5 tips:
#1 Invest time and money
Investing time and money to learn these skills is money well spent. The first question I ask of each trainee in my media training classes is, “If you could attach a dollar to every word you say, would you make money or lose money?” In fact, Chapter 2 of my book, Don’t Talk to the Media, Until…, is called The Big If. It addresses the value of a good or bad interview. The NFL obviously sees an interview as being worth at least $100,000. I wish corporations fined their executives each time one of them dodged a media interview.
#2 This isn’t your main job
For athletes and executives alike, doing media interviews is NOT your primary job and is NOT what you are an expert in. We get it. But like it or not, it IS part of your job. Like anything else in life that you have to do, you should do it well. Football players should understand they need an expert media training coach, just like each player needs a coach (or coaches) to help them be a better player. Rather than turning to an expert in media training, many rely on their agents for interview coaching. These agents have never been reporters and truly do not understand the complexities of the media and the best ways to master an interview.
#3 Is it too late now to fix this?
Preparation is the key to success. Football teams get to the Super Bowl when they start practicing in the off-season and continue to practice daily. Lynch should have invested significant time and money to fix his issues during the off-season. Trying to fix it the week of the Super Bowl is crazy. He should have addressed this a year ago when the NFL first levied their fines.
#4 Is there a way to simplify media interviews?
Yes. Simplifying what you want to say before an interview is the correct way to succeed. It is better than just standing there in front of a barrage of reporters asking mindless questions. Keep in mind, that at Super Bowl media day, the media just get stupid, by asking mindless questions and trying to pull stunts and gags. The dumb media represent the NFL’s acknowledgement that they want as much free press as humanly possible. I’d rather see reporters at media day be vetted so that only serious sports reporters are asking serious sports questions to serious athletes.
#5 Think like a reporter
Regardless of the type of media you face, the interview process can be simplified. It begins by thinking like a reporter. Each reporter is looking for a headline, a synopsis sentence, and a good quote.
If that is what the reporters want, the players should each be coached and ready to speak just like that: Give the headline, give a synopsis of what you want to talk about, then give a quote.
Is this easy?
No, not really. It is really hard work to make something simple, which is why you should seek out an expert coach to help you.
By Gerard Braud