The opportunities for athletes to promote both themselves and their sports through dealing with media are enormous. Never before have there been so many ways to highlight issues and areas of interest. By understanding the media better you will be able to grasp these opportunities safe in the knowledge that you are doing it professionally. So whether it be at your own world championships or at multisport events, which attract huge cross sections of the media, you need to decide:
(a) Are you going to embrace the media for the good of yourself and your sport?
(b) Are you not going to deal with the media?
Once a decision is made you will, if it is option (a) need to learn how to effectively maximise the benefits of dealing with the media.
Why deal with the media?
(a) To build your personal profile
(b) To build the profile of your sport
(c) To promote your sponsor
Understanding The Media
Different types of media
There are two basic types of media that you will come into contact with:
(a) Broadcast - radio and television
Radio is a very flexible medium which operates pretty much 24 hours a day. It is an immediate medium because of its ability to turn around interviews and features quickly.
Radio covers sport in three basic forms:
(a) Live coverage of events
(b) News - sports bulletins and radio programmes
(c) Magazines and documentary programmes which look behind the scenes
As a result of its nature, radio gives minor sports a great opportunity to gain coverage especially through local and regional radio. There is also the possibility of gaining coverage at the Olympic Games through BBC Radio 5, which collates both national and regional coverage for broadcast.
So what makes a good interview
Below are some points to remember when being interviewed either in a studio or at an outside broadcast situation:
(a) Try to answer succinctly because this allows the radio station to edit “sound bites” from your interview. A clever one liner could be your passport to recognition and increase your value as an athlete to sponsors and your sport. Sometimes there will not be much time for it, especially if live, so you will need to give precise answers to allow several questions to be asked within the time allotted.
(b) Try not to “um” and “er”. If it is a pre-recorded interview, take a few moments to think about your answers because this will allow you to put over your points eloquently.
(c) Always turn up on time
(d) Prepare - always ask what the interview will be about before you start. This allows you to think about the topics which you will cover.
(e) Laughing on the radio, (but not giggling inanely) will endear you to an audience who can only gauge your personality by what they hear.
Television interviews will either be done in the studio/outside broadcast unit or at a venue. They will either be live or pre-recorded depending on deadlines and the accessibility of technical equipment.
Television will cover sport across the same basic areas as radio and will operate across the following formats:
(a) Live coverage
(b) Recorded coverage
(c) Studio based items
(d) Outside broadcast items
(f) Documentary feature programmes
There are two main areas of TV that you will deal with:
(a) Terrestrial TV - eg BBC and ITV
(b) Satellite/ Cable - eg Sky Eurosport
With the event of digital broadcasting there will be an increasing number of television stations starting up over the next few years.
Television offers you the strongest opportunity to get your message across because sound and vision are the best methods of delivering your point of view. Like radio, TV can be a very immediate outlet and relies on many of the same techniques to deliver its messages, these are, satellite links and studio editing.
Techniques for TV interviews:
(a) Before the interview, ask:
- TV company and programme name
- Type of programme and the expected audience
- What the interview will be about
- TV company and programme name
- Type of programme and the expected audience
- What the interview will be about
(b) Always assume that you are being recorded
(c) Eye contact with the interviewer - very important. Do not look at the camera.
(d) Don’t fidget! You could fall out of the shot.
(e) Listen to the question and answer it straight on. If you’re evasive, we’ll get tough
(f) Speak clearly, don’t swallow the endings of your words and give a reasonable pause between sentences.
(g) Plan ahead. There are only 5 questions - HOW, WHAT, WHY, WHERE AND WHEN.
(h) Never be condescending, even if you think the interviewer’s not really on this planet. He or she is your FREE passport to a wider audience. Use them for all your worth.
(i) Take three deep breaths before the interview starts. Settles the nerves - all pro- broadcasters do this simple exercise.
(j) Smile and enjoy it - that will make you sound and feel more confident. The eyes will sparkle and you won’t look like a startled rabbit.
The written media covers everything from local/regional papers through to national papers and magazines. There are an increasing number of magazines coming into the market place these days offering athletes the chance to gain coverage in sports specific magazines or more general lifestyle publications. The written media can be broken down into four main areas:
(a) News reporters - looking for a story, often linked to scandal
(b) Sports reporters - supportive to athletes and sport
(c) Columnist - looking for an overview. Opinion based
(d) Feature writer - covers sport/ athlete in depth
These writers have no allegiance to your sport and are sent to an event such as the Olympic Games to get a story. These stories by their very nature are usually linked to a scandal and the writer does not care if he/she treads on any toes to find a lead. The news reporter’s aim is to find a front page story and these will not be in the athlete’s interest.
You need to be aware of these reporters and they will be people you have probably never dealt with. It is always best to make all arrangements through the PR Officer for the team because they will be able to help you deal with the news reporters.
The sports reporter is generally supportive of athletes and their sports. That is not to say that they will not report on failures but they will have a more balanced approach and will have the interest of sport at heart.
A sports reporter will probably be well known to you as they will be a regular at your events and you will no doubt have a pretty good relationship with them. It is not in the sports reporters’ interest to “rubbish” the athletes or the sports because they will need to have an on-going relationship with both. It is a good idea to try and build a good relationship with these writers and whether you are competing or not - say hello and have a chat.
A columnist is looking at an overview of an event or a sport. Most of the article will be opinion based and the columnist will not be at the venue very often and certainly not in the “mixed zone”.
A feature writer will be looking to examine the sport or athlete in greater depth than the sports reporter. The feature writer will probably look to do a piece with an athlete prior to a competition, if they are a known winner or have a great story, or afterwards if they have emerged as a champion or something extraordinary has happened to them.
Pressures On Journalists
There are two main pressures on journalists:
(a) Deadlines - The journalist needs to write and send a story by a certain time.
The pressure will be governed by time zones and competition
(b) Their own office - Such as pressure to “get a story” and possibly look for scandal.
The reason for having a press conference is to brief the media on major issues whether they be proactive, such as highlighting aims of forthcoming competition or reactive to events that have already taken place.
A press conference could take place prior to, during or after a competition depending on the circumstances.
(a) Make sure you and team members attending the press conference are aware of its purpose and the message you want to get across.
(b) Issue a press release to coincide with the press conference. This should also include an explanation as to why you wish to hold the press conference.
(c) Talk through potential question and answer issues that might arise with team members attending. Make sure you all agree on these points.
(d) Appoint a chair person, who will control the conference.
(e) Prepare a press pack for the media attending. This folder should include a press release, and other relevant background information.
Is a means of getting your message/ information across to the media. It should be short and to the point. Basic guidelines for writing a release are:
(a) Who, What, When, Where and Why.
(b) Try to put a quote into the release which the media can use in their stories.
(c) Put contact details on the bottom of the release so that the media can contact someone for further information or to arrange interviews.
Points to remember when being interviewed by radio, TV and written media:
1. Be yourself
2. Show emotion - show how you feel
3. Think before you speak. Before you have the interview, think what possible issues could arise. Think what you want to say and have a clear view as to how to tackle difficult issues. Ask the interviewer before what the questions will be. If there is a difficult issue, don’t avoid it. If you’re not willing to give your views then someone may make up your views for you.
4. Be natural. Do not be over prepared, you will come across false.
5. Have a conversation with the person giving the interview. Forget about the millions of people listening and watching! Listen carefully and answer each question. Best way to come across natural.
6. Speak clearly - not too fast (even if excited)
7. Look the interviewer in the eye - you will come across a sincere, believable person
8. For TV and radio, answers should not be too short, ie one word, but don’t ramble. They may only have a small time slot and you can cover several points.
9. Sponsor coverage should be subtle. Any blatant logos may be edited.
10.Don’t alienate the media. Be open and available for interview and they will report favourably. Build relationships with sports journalists.
11.Enjoy it. People want to know about you. Sell your sport. Especially minor sport. Only a four year cycle when minor sports can get publicity.
Breaking Stories - These are stories that have suddenly emerged which will stimulate a
media frenzy. In the past these could have been items such as the
disqualification of Ben Johnson.
Columnist - Writer who covers topics giving his/her opinion on sporting matters.
The word that sums up this area is “overview”.
Deadline - Pressure on a journalist to send a story by a certain time.
Feature Programme - A programme or article which will examine the sport or athlete in
Doorstepping - An impromptu interview where the media will pounce on an athlete
without prior warning. Normally done when a news story is breaking
on subjects that are front page news such as drug scandals.
Editions - The frequency of a publication or programme.
Feature Writer - Focuses on writing articles of a great depth.
IBC - International Broadcast Centre. Where TV and radio are based at an
Mixed Zone - Area at an Olympic Games or major event where the media interview
athletes straight after competition.
MPC - Main Press Centre
News Reporter - These writers have the sole purpose of finding a front page story and
as a consequence their stories are linked to scandal of some sort. They
will have no allegiance to sports.
Preview - This is a scene setting interview or feature done prior to competitions
which lays out information on the forthcoming event and the
characters involved whether they are likely winners or have an
interesting story behind them.
Press Conference - An organised briefing involving any number (large or small) of media.
Can also be held at short notice, for example, at an event.
Press Release - Means of getting your message across to the media. It is written, and
should be brief and to the point.
Rights Holders - These are media outlets who have bought the rights to an event. They
are guaranteed access that no other media people can get in terms of
transmission/ coverage of events and access to competition areas.
Soundbite - A short sentence that perfectly explains a topic which media can use
easily on radio or television.
SPC - Sub Press Centre, is the press centre for media at outlying sporting
venues away from the main stadium.
Sports Reporter - Their main focus is on sport and the athletes concerned. Generally
they are supportive of athletes and have the interest of sport at heart.
Terrestrial TV - Collective term for the major domestic television channels. In the UK
they are: BBC 1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
British Olympic Association