Blog

The 2016 Olympics & the importance of media training

by Drew Wilson
Aug
04
2016

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 14 seconds

This week, the world’s greatest athletes will descend on Rio de Janeiro to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. For 120 years, the Olympics have represented the pinnacle of athletic competition and national pride.

However, the weeks and months leading up to the games are often marred by negative media coverage. Virtually every Olympic Games has endured some sort of crisis leading up to the event – and this year is no different.

You’ve probably heard about the water contamination that will threaten the health of the athletes (and visitors), as well as the possible global spread of Zika and the Russian doping scandal; however, these only scratch the surface. Below are a few of the other issues the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Rio have been dealing with recently.

The IOC and their selection process have fundamental operational issues. Fortunately, the struggles in Rio have forced officials to reconsider their previous goal of opening up the games to a broader selection of cities.

Issues for the IOC and the host cities go well beyond crisis preparedness and communication strategy. These are very obvious needs. Specifically, I’d like to highlight the importance of media training by using Anita Defrantz’s interview with ESPN’s Mike & Mike as an example.

I’ll let you listen for yourself, but to me, DeFrantz, the lone U.S. IOC member, did not fare well. Below are basic guidelines that corporate spokespeople should follow for every interview, which are even more emphasized when dealing with a potentially controversial topic.

1. Be attentive and engaged

Listeners and viewers will judge if an interviewee is confident in the first 0.2 seconds of an interview. Building trustworthiness is key to effectively conveying your message, so be sure to look and sound like you want to be there.

DeFrantz comes across as too casual and almost disinterested throughout the interview. This could be a product of her overall demeanor, but this is a key aspect to evaluate when selecting an appropriate spokesperson.

2. Answer clearly and concisely

Long, complex answers are not effective in communicating your message to an audience. When asked a question, an interviewee must remember to answer clearly and concisely.

When DeFrantz was asked about the water pollution in Rio – an extremely common question given the attention it has garnered – she did a very poor job demonstrating confidence. She first explained the water was “just fine” and the bay “seemed to be okay,” while the city was trying to keep the “unwanted stuff” outside the area of the sailors.

She goes on to mention that each team has special gear to keep the athletes “safe from germs…that’s not the right word…bad things,” but she had just explained the water was “just fine.” Not only did she not provide any detail to support her claim, but then she contradicted herself on what should have been a key message.

There were multiple examples of DeFrantz not answering clearly or concisely throughout the interview. For spokespeople, most often this is caused when an interviewee does not feel comfortable or prepared with his or her key messages.

3. Develop and deliver key messages

Every company spokesperson should have key messages AND supporting evidence developed to deliver during an interview. “Winging it” is a surefire way to get yourself – and your company – in trouble.

On multiple occasions DeFrantz rambles, losing the listeners and damaging her credibility. For example, when asked what the IOC can do to keep countries accountable for unfulfilled promises made when bidding for the Olympics, her reply was “I guess having a crystal ball? I’m not exactly sure.”

Even if there are circumstances outside your control, passing blame in a cavalier manner NEVER works. If DeFrantz’s strategy was to deflect from the IOC, she should have prepared strong messages with evidence to support her claims rather than simply dismissing the question.

Later when asked if the IOC would take responsibility for issues that might occur during the games, she goes off on a tangent that was not even mentioned by the interviewers, stating, “How can an outside organization tell a city that we know how to run your transportation better? It is illogical.”

DeFrantz was off-topic, and she insulted the interviewers and listeners by asking a rhetorical question followed by a derogatory statement.

It was very clear DeFrantz did not have key messages prepared, but rather relied on her perceived status to convey confidence and trustworthiness. To me, she missed the mark in a big way.

4. Practice, practice, practice

This one is self-explanatory. If DeFrantz did have key messages, it seems unlikely to me that she practiced weaving those messages into her responses.

For example, at the six minute mark, DeFrantz stammers over her words repeatedly with multiple “ums” and “uhs,” which are clear signs of lack of preparation. A few other examples include responses highlighting that she was not aware of how many members were on the IOC committee at the time of voting for the 2016 Olympics and that she learned of factors that disqualified Chicago’s bid from contention after the vote.

As with anything, by not practicing you will often look or sound unprepared, which will erode credibility. In order to have success, it is important to have mastered your key messages and prepared for any potential questions that could throw you off balance.

Conclusion

These four points are very basic guidelines for any spokespeople. By not following them, you could do irreparable harm to your company’s reputation.

In the end though, the IOC has a major advantage over a typical business. Once the Opening Ceremonies begin, the world’s attention will turn to the athletes and medal count rather than the headlines that led up to the games. Your company will not be so lucky. GO USA! 

Recent Posts

Abolishing Google’s Ad Position Metric

- September 30, 2019

Good news or bad news for your brand?

On September 30, Google is slated to update the search engine results pages (SERPs) again with the “ad position sunset” change. Marketers can now use the new metrics to optimize and inform business based on the impressions and results. 

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 14 seconds

Read More »

Busting Hunger in Dallas ISD

By: Jennifer Powell
- August 03, 2017

Many know HCK2 Partners for our work, strong relationships with clients, fun(ny) t-shirts and company events. But some don’t know that one of our pillars we pride ourselves on is community involvement and giving back to causes that have a deep place in our heart. 

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 25 seconds

Read More »

HCK2 to host Social Media Day in Dallas and Addison - #TXSMDay

By: Laurie Nelson
- June 26, 2017

It’s official, even Mashable agrees! HCK2 is bringing Social Media Day to our home town of Addison, as well as Dallas on Friday, June 30. 

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 45 seconds

Read More »

Hands Aren’t Just for Mashing Keyboards – A Case for Picking Up a New Hobby

By: Eric Ojeda
- June 09, 2017

As a full-service marketing agency, HCK2 is filled with knowledge workers. We communicate news and information in a variety of ways, whether through press releases, brochures, or websites, we thrive on developing creative ways to convey that information.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 11 seconds

Read More »

HCK2 Client, NTT DATA, Wins Two D CEO Awards

By: Drew Wilson
- May 30, 2017

One of HCK2’s technology clients, NTT DATA Services, was recently awarded two prestigious honors at the 2017 Mergers and Acquisitions Awards presented by D CEO and Association for Corporate Growth.

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 33 seconds

Read More »

Pages