NBC sportscaster Al Michaels once said this about New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick: “He’s not exactly the most media friendly guy in the world.
Talk about understatement! Belichick is well known for his uninspiring (translation: boring) media interviews and for mumbling his way through pre-game and post-game press conferences. His most recent media snafu occurred after his team’s 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in this year’s AFC championship game. Belichick blew off the customary on-field, post-game interview.
Being a NFL head coach brings with it certain unpleasant tasks. One of them is doing interviews after big playoff losses. TV networks, in this case CBS, pay a hefty part of the NFL’s bills; they expect a post-game interview with the coach of the losing team. Instead of Belichick, they got Patriots safety Devin McCourty.
There’s a lesson here for anyone who has media interview responsibilities: Be willing to talk to the media not only when your news is good, but also when it’s unpleasant. Some companies jump at the chance to tout their latest success; they’ll even call the news media. But when the news is disappointing or even bad, interview requests are declined or reporters’ calls go unreturned. That’s not how to cultivate a good, long-term, business relationship with the news media.
Years ago, this writer worked with a colleague who handled media relations for a $2 billion energy company. Whenever executives at the company balked at talking to reporters when the news was not positive, he reminded them that his title was Manager, Media Communications, not Manager, Good Media Communications.
Bill Belichick: Take note.