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Apply your Media Training or risk being bowled by a googly

February 3, 2014 by Sophie Hunt

We all know the expression ‘think before you speak’ but when you’re under the media spotlight, it can be easy for even the best spokespeople to forget their media training and the importance of keeping mum.

Interviewed shortly after a resounding victory in Hobart which saw England’s women cricketers retain the Ashes, team captain Charlotte Edwards was quick to tell reporters just how much the win meant to her.

Unfortunately, she also decided to reveal that she planned to celebrate the team’s victory by getting “absolutely smashed” and this, coupled with several tweets referring to her plans (later deleted), was enough to put her on a very sticky wicket with the media.

BBC Radio 5 Live wasted no time in asking listeners for their views and during a one-hour phone-in entitled ‘Does celebration have to mean inebriation?’, Ms Edwards came in for considerable criticism. She also found herself the subject of a number of national media articles.

So what lessons can we learn from this and how can we ensure we manage and protect our reputation?

Lesson one: Think before you speak

Whether you’re involved in crisis management or positive PR, always take time to reflect and think before you speak. As our cricketer found to her cost, even if 99 per cent of your interview is word perfect, the throwaway comment or inflammatory remark is what the media will focus on.

Lesson two: Be prepared

Do your homework. Spokespeople need to be well prepared and clear on the messages and content they can cover. Anticipate potential ‘googlies’ by thinking through likely questions and engineer opportunities to rehearse answers and practice interview techniques before going ‘live on air’.

Whether you’re dealing with good news or bad, a well-trained spokesperson who understands the media agenda is a real asset. Ill-judged comments, however innocent, can be extremely damaging and it’s important to remember that like elephants, the media never forgets (or forgives).

So, whilst it might only take Ms Edwards a few hours to recover from her post-match drinking session, it may take a little longer for her to rebuild her reputation. Here’s hoping further victories will help her on her way – I’ll certainly be rooting for her.

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