I like England manager Gareth Southgate.
I like the way his players perform in their media interviews.
I want England to do well in the World Cup.
But I’ve yet to meet either the manager or his players.
My impression of them is formed 100% through the media.
So regardless of how England perform on the pitch, they’re so far performing well on the telly.
We can all learn lessons in two ways from this:
In our media training courses at Pink Elephant Communications, we’re most frequently asked:
How should I deal with awkward questions?
Should I throw questions back at the reporter?
Should I refuse to answer some media questions?
Watch Gareth Southgate and learn!
In the build up to England’s first game against Tunisia, questions from the world’s media will have been repetitive.
Are the players too inexperienced to succeed?
Is it a must-win game?
How are the players handling the pressure?
But the manager has to deal with each as if he’s being asked it for the first time.
There was a freshness to Southgate’s interviews.
He treated every question with respect.
He answered every question candidly yet diplomatically.
Add to that demeanour.
His eye contact with each questioner was good.
His tone was calm yet enthusiastic.
He smiled in a warm and friendly way in the face of negative questioning.
Contrast this with how Fabio Capello handled the media when in charge of England between 2008 and 2012.
He created an “us and them” mentality.
The media was the enemy.
He banned players from speaking even about games of darts in their down time at tournaments.
As a result, the media was waiting for any slip – ready with the knives sharpened.
Some years ago, I asked a Scotland manager to consider this:
Treat the media with respect and they’ll give you six months more in the job than results deserve.
Treat them with contempt and they’ll ensure the pressure builds for you to pack your bags six months before it’s time to go.
Do you want one more year to get your team into shape?
Trouble is, when emotion arrives in an interview, logic flies out the window.
Managers bite. They snarl. They snap.
And we all get to see it live on TV.
The demands of the live interview
Most of us have been asked in a job interview:
What are our weaknesses?
What could we have done better in a previous role?
Where do we see room for improvement?
Football managers are asked these questions live on TV.
Many react with disgust and contempt when already feeling low.
Gareth Southgate is measured and friendly in his responses.
It used to be the norm in Scotland to support ‘anyone but England’ in World Cup Finals.
And when Scotland qualified each time from 1974 to 1990, there was a case.
We were in the same tournament – and we feared eventually losing to our oldest rivals.
It’s now 20 years since Scotland last qualified for the World Cup Finals.
I want to back a team whose players I watch each week in the Premiership – whose fortunes I follow.
This year, I want England to succeed.
And Gareth Southgate makes that much easier to explain.
He handles what Rudyard Kipling called “the twin imposters” of victory and defeat just the same.
He takes responsibility for failings and puts success in perspective.
Some will argue that life will be unbearable if England do well.
“God forbid they should win the Wold Cup!”
But that’s an issue for the media and how they report it.
Hype – hyperbole – is what’s created in the reporting of events, especially sporting ones.
As interviewees, we can only control what we say in the answers.
We urge clients to:
Answer questions directly.
That’s the theory.
What about the practice under pressure?
Whether handling a sporting interview – or a business one – let’s learn lessons from the England manager:
When he took over as interim manager on Sam Allerdyce’s sudden departure, few gave him any chance of landing the permanent job.
But his media skills impressed – and further impressed the interview panel.
Let’s all take encouragement from being able beat the odds and rise to the top.
Based on both our skills and our ability to communicate.
Finally – in a Scottish accent – spoken rather than shouted…
Bill McFarlan is Executive Chairman of Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.
You can view his full profile here…
Some media trainers knock you down…and leave you down. Our media coaches show you how to deal with each knock…and still win through. So you have the presentation skills to perform – with confidence.