Serving Up Good Sportsmanship

The 2014 U.S. Open finished September 8 with Croacia’s Marin Cilic beating Japan’s Kei Nishikori. While the win was a huge feat for both Mr. Cilic and his home country, the big story is that neither #1 ranked Novak Djokovic nor #2 ranked Roger Federer were part of this year’s tennis final. Becoming a top world-ranked athlete is no easy accomplishment, and one that often grows athletes egos as much as their popularity. However, when Mr. Federer was interviewed after losing to #14 ranked Mr. Cilic, he showed impressive sportsmanship in the face of defeat.

    “It’s fairly simple, I think. Marin played great and I maybe didn’t catch my best day. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.”


Mr. Federer could have made excuses as to why he didn’t win, but instead gave a soundbite that didn’t require media training. He kept it positive and to the point. This loss came after an earlier upset where #10-seeded Mr. Nishikori beat Mr. Djokovic. When questioned about the underdogs taking the finals, Mr. Federer looked to the future.

“It’s exciting for the game to have different faces from time to time. It’s definitely refreshing to some extent. It’s big for Croatia; it’s big for Japan.” He continued, “Everybody who gets to this stage of this kind of a competition deserves to be there because they have put in the work and they hoped for the break, and this is it for both of them.”

 Mr. Federer was not given a break from the hard-hitting questions. A passionate anti-doping advocate, he was asked about the doping suspension that barred Mr. Cilic from last year’s U.S. Open. He addressed the difficult question by stating,

“I don’t quite remember what the circumstances were, but I feel more bad for him than anything else. When I see him, it doesn’t cross my mind in any way.”

While he may have felt defeated, Mr. Federer didn’t show it and kept his cool when dealing with tricky questions. He kept the interview positive and bridged from his loss to the future of tennis. It’s not always as easy as it looks, but that’s why tennis begins with Love all!






Bridge Over Troubled Waters

In their classic hit, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Simon and Garfunkel offer a message to Cameron Diaz: Take the high road, not the bait!

Acknowledge the interview question then bridge to the answer you’ve come to give.

Anyone can fall prey to media mistakes if she hasn’t had media coaching, and the typically well-mannered romcom actress, Cameron Diaz, is no exception. Making the rounds to promote her new movie, Sony Pictures’ Sex Tape, the A-list star recently called into the popular Australian radio talk show, hosted by Kyle and Jackie O.


Cameron Diaz

But when Kyle made a snide comment about Drew Barrymore, the actress’ best friend, Ms. Diaz lost sight of her goal. Kyle said, “Let’s hope she (Ms. Diaz’s daughter in the movie) misses out on the Drew Barrymore drug years, because those were a great thing to watch, but not so good to be in, I’d imagine.” Instead of acknowledging the comment with a simple, “I’d imagine” and bridging back to her movie, Ms. Diaz reacted and replied defensively, “I’m sure, Kyle, you’ve never been through a drug phase, have you? Or alcoholism or anything like that? Pretty clean; always did it right? Congratulations.”

When Kyle went on to say, “But I’m friends with Benji,” referring to Benji Madden, the rumored boyfriend of the notoriously-private Ms. Diaz, she decided to cut the radio interview short, hanging up on the broadcasters and their listeners.

With expert media training, stars and executives alike discover the answers to bridge to and practice bridging. Letting the cheeky interviewer bait her to anger, became the story instead of the movie, which was Ms. Diaz’s purpose in accepting the promotional media opportunity.

Everybody Makes Mistakes

Everyone needs media coaching once in a while, including Pope Francis. The Vatican has been recently involved in embarrassing situations due to poor media preparation. Time after time, Vatican spokesmen have been forced to release awkward clarifications after failed media opportunities. And more often than not, these clarifications cause more confusion. Pope Francis’ latest interview with 90-year old journalist Eugenio Scalfari was no exception. His interview published in the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica,” caused a messy aftermath that raised eyebrows and provoked debates due to the pope’s comments regarding pedophilia.

Pope Francis 2

Pope Francis’ was quoted as saying, “many of my advisers who are fighting pedophile priests with me are giving me reliable data that estimates pedophilia inside the church at a level of 2 percent.” Then he added, “Among the 2 percent who are pedophiles are priests, and even bishops and cardinals.” It is important to note that La Repubblica’s journalist has a reputation of choosing not to record or take notes during his interviews. But, regardless of what was exactly said, it is clear that the essence of the conversation revolved around a problem and not a solution. According to Phil Lawler, a writer for the Catholic Culture website, Pope Francis tends to speak off the cuff and does not usually rely on competent staff members who can brief him about any potential difficulties before he speaks to journalists.

Our Ready advice to Pope Francis and his communications team is to plan ahead. The Vatican press office should study the media outlet they will be dealing with and discuss any possible pitfalls that may arise during the conversation. Additionally, they should create message points that promote the Catholic Church’s cause in a positive way. This would allow Pope Francis to bridge his responses to those messages when facing difficult and controversial questions. In spite of Pope Francis’ intentions of speaking from his heart, he has to be aware that he is an influential figure. And as he most certainly found out, what he says to the media may have unexpected consequences.

The Best Defense

During a recent conversation with The Guardian, pop singing sensation Lana del Rey experienced a media disaster by steering the interview in the wrong direction.  According to Tim Jonze, Lana’s interviewer, she repeatedly expressed discontent with her life and said, “I wish I was dead already.” Reflecting the title of  her debut album “Born to Die,” she mentioned several of her idols and pointed out they had all died young. Personalities like Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix were on her list

Lana del Rey

In our media trainings, we coach clients for follow-up questions, and advise them to choose answers which will take the interview in a direction they want to go.  This training is something Lana del Rey could have used as she attempted to promote  her newest album. When Ms. del Rey was asked about the title of her debut album “Born to Die,” she answered that she sees a certain “glamour” in dying young.

It was obvious that her dark-themed responses would lead her interviewer to ask further questions; probing the singer to divulge more information. It was then that Ms. del Rey mistakenly confessed that she finds the premature deaths of Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain to be glamorous and reiterated her desire to die, “I do, yeah, I do, I, you know, I don’t want to have to, like, keep doing this. You know, but I am.” She continued to disclose disturbing responses that left many of her fans shocked.

Ms. del Rey could have chosen to focus on facts that portrayed her success. For instance, she could have mentioned how her new album sold 880,000 copies in its first week worldwide. Instead, without an agenda of her own, Ms. Del Rey was at the mercy of the questioning.  Had she been more proactive and chosen to develop or sharpen her interview skills in a Los Angeles media training setting, she would have been more successful.  Instead, she now has to deal with the backlash that comes from negative media attention. A media interview is an opportunity to take the offense and accomplish what you will. Lana Del Rey wasted this opportunity.

Apology Not Accepted

As a follow up to his racist ramblings, Donald Sterling appeared in an exclusive interview with journalist Anderson Cooper on CNN to “apologize.” During the interview, Mr. Sterling once again made general remarks about African Americans and even added Jews to his diatribe. He assured viewers that he is not a racist, but was rather tricked by his ex-girlfriend and a technology that men his age do not understand.

Additionally, he attacked Magic Johnson once more arguing that the sports legend is a terrible example to children for “making love to every girl in every city in America” and catching AIDS.

The Clippers owner ruined an excellent media opportunity to mend fences and begin regaining public support. Instead, he managed to dig a deeper hole for himself by reinforcing his beliefs with confusing responses.

Perhaps most surprising to journalist Anderson Cooper and us was that Mr. Sterling did not have a P.R. team with him during the interview nor did he exhibit any proper media training or messaging. As Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann commented, “it’s stunning that Sterling’s lawyers and public relations advisers would green light this interview; this was not a man who seemed ‘coached’ by his handlers at all.”

And as Mr. Sterling will clearly come to realize, his apology was not accepted.