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Handling the Media: Hamilton vs. Southgate

We’ve all done it.

Said something out of turn.

Faced a backlash.

Continued to justify our increasingly-unjustifiable position.

We just needed to remember, when in a hole, stop digging.

F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton sits at the bottom of a big black hole before a crucial weekend in the F1 title race.

But at least he has for company the world number 12 tennis player, Nick Kyrgios.

Hamilton raised questions when his engine burst into flames during the Malaysian Grand Prix.

He wondered out loud why it was always his car that had the problems, rather than his Mercedes team-mate and world championship leader, Nico Rosberg.

Handling questions

media handling scotland formula one car.

He then had a right pop at the media when he faced criticism for posting Snapchat images of himself and fellow driver Carlos Sainz Jr.

They were sporting bunny ears-instead of paying attention to a media conference, in which he was a panellist.

He refused to answer questions regarding his remarks about his engine and instead referred journalists to his social media outlets.

One can presume here they could admire his bunny ears, rather than gaining an insight into any aspect of F1 racing.

Turning his fire then on the journalists, he said:

“Re press conference, it’s been the same for 10 years. It’s not the media or mediator, it’s the format. Fans should be asking the questions!”

What Hamilton forgets is that journalists are the people charged with the responsibility of asking questions on behalf of the fans.

The real enemy

media handling scotland petulant nick kyrgios tennis star.

It was an ugly display of petulance  and leaves many with a much poorer impression of a highly-talented sportsman.

But at least Hamilton gave it everything on the track – unlike Australian Nick Kyrgios on court at the Shanghai Masters.

He patted the ball back over the net – and on one occasion started to saunter off the court before his opponent, German Mischa Zverev, dispatched a winning point.

Having said he was ‘bored’ in his win against American Sam Querrey, worse was to come.

He then told a packed news conference that he “didn’t owe the fans anything”.

He went on to say that if they were any good, they’d be playing the circuit themselves.

I’m sure both Lewis Hamilton and Nick Kyrgios see the media as the enemy when they sit down in front of a news conference.

Identifying the problem

The real enemy is misinformation.



All the media have done is report what each of these talented but angry sports stars have said about their employers, fans and the media.

By contrast, interim England football manager Gareth Southgate and his captain Wayne Rooney deserve gold stars for performance.

media handling scotland gareth southgate.

Southgate took the difficult decision to drop his captain, whose form had been subject to criticism for some time.

But instead of running away from awkward media questions, the boss patiently and politely explained his decision – before inviting Rooney to take questions.

Even though England’s scoreless draw with Slovenia was regarded as disappointing, the stock of Southgate and Rooney rose because of their attitude.

They eased pressure on themselves and by dealing directly with journalists, allowed them to report their positive words, in the same way that Hamilton and Kyrgios’s negative outbursts were also reported.

Choosing the answers

media handling scotland pink elephant communications trainers at Lochinch House in Glasgow

In our media training courses run mainly from our Glasgow studios, we make the point each day that while we might like to choose the questions, we only get to choose the answers.

I’ve made this point in running media training courses with five Scotland Head coaches – three from football and two from rugby.

Dealing with the media positively and politely, I suggested, may win you six months extra in your post.

Being rude and negative will surely hasten calls for your head six months prematurely.

I asked them all if they would prefer to gain that extra year to steer their country in the right direction.

Kyrgios has been fined for his behaviour.

Hamilton will surely be chided by his employer.

Southgate – if the results back up his media demeanour – may be talking himself into a full-time job.

Rooney has already become a better role model and more attractive sponsorship target.

Anyone who has the opportunity of dealing with the media would benefit from studying the two footballers to see how to do it.

Or, of course, they could join a Pink Elephant Communications Media Training day.

Bill McFarlan is Executive Chairman of media training and presentation skills training firm Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.

You can view his full profile here.

Photo credit: taka_suzuki via / CC BY-SAstevebustin via / CC BY-NDBen Sutherland via / CC BY; Kulitat via / CC BY-SA

21st October 2016 Featured in: Blog By:

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