Communication Skills and Media
How do we deal publicly with complicated questions and situations?
Do we need to communicate differently to different media platforms?
Do we know how best to get our information and messages across under pressure?
The art of communicating with fans through the football media is one that is constantly changing. There are more platforms than ever before, so there are more questions to be answered. Different channels and publications will ask different questions with different agendas. The challenge is to get them all to hear the answer that you want to give. Not easy.
The more you say, the more you leave yourself open to misinterpretation or misquoting. But if you say little or nothing, you fail to connect with your audience altogether. The balance between engaging with your public but not leaving yourself open to a damaging headline is a delicate one to strike.
Total communication is about taking total control of your messages. Whether you are in a press conference or a job interview, speaking to sponsors or fans, doing a pre-match or post-match interview, in victory or defeat, you need to learn how to say what you want to say.
The PFA Business School has worked with communication professionals to design a programme that offers practical guidance in how to deal with real-life situations that confront coaches, managers and players on a daily basis in football. We have enlisted the very people whose job it is to try to get you to say something you don’t want to say... and asked them to instruct you in how to avoid that!
Course Director: Mark Clemmit
Course Objectives and Target Audience
Who We Are – The Art of Speaking in Public
- True leaders lead 24/7. They set the standards, set the tone and set the goals for everyone around them by everything they do and say. They get people to listen to them by finding the right words for the right situation. We always get to choose our own words. Nobody puts them in our mouths. This course will help students in making those choices.
- Be yourself... but be the very best version of yourself. Find your USP and project it whenever you speak. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and ask yourself ‘why would they listen to me?’ What can you tell and give them that nobody else can?
- Nerves are fine. Don’t kid yourself you’re the only one that gets nervous about public speaking, but the platform is an opportunity not an ordeal. This is your chance to be heard. Believe in yourself and your audience will believe in you too.
- Practice makes perfect. Try your words out on the dog first. Like a set-piece, rehearse it until it is ingrained. Plan your address in detail. Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.
- Look into their eyes... not into your notes. Your script is your safety net but you are talking to an audience, not to an A4 pad. Try to find ways to memorise your messages and make plenty of eye contact. Talk to, don’t talk at.
How We Say It - Delivery
Make them listen, make them think, make them smile. Body language is as important as spoken language. You need to grab their attention and hold it, so use every part of your personality... your eye contact, your gestures, your facial expressions and, yes, your sense of humour! Voice and body language working in harmony.
- Find your voice – vocal contact needs volume to be heard, it needs clarity to be understood, and it needs variety to hold interest.
- Make the right moves – reaching your audience involves physically reaching out to them with body language that shows them you care about what your are saying.
What We Say: Building Content
- Ins and outs – Start strong, big finish. Grab attention through an opening with impact. Leave them with something to remember as a grand finale.
- The rule of three – a beginning, middle and an end. Structure your talk so that each section leads naturally to the next. Easy for them to follow, easier for you to remember.
Creating a Story
- Tell them a tale. People are 22 times more likely to remember a story than a fact. If you adapt a personal memory or experience to a wider narrative, you can find common ground and understanding. “I’ve been where you are and this is what I did.” Story-telling is magical.
Control Your Emotions
This is all about getting a grip of yourself, and keeping it. The strongest and most memorable messages are delivered in short, sharp phrases, ‘no ‘I’ in team’, ‘nearly isn’t enough’ ‘just do it’, but controlling emotions is also about harnessing and using them positively. Passion is powerful, when it can be channelled. This module asks questions about how best to use your emotions effectively.
- Do you control your emotions or do they control you?
- When your emotions grow powerful, how do they affect your powers of communication?
- When your emotions grow negative, how do you stay positive?
- When you are trying to control and channel your emotions, what doesn’t work? Learn from your mistakes.
- When you see others control and channel their emotions, what seems to work for them? Learn from their methods.
Every football interview is different because every day in football is different. In a world in which ‘what we say’ often creates bigger headlines than ‘what we do’, the ability to meet each challenge with the right words can set the tone and the agenda for what we do next. Be the politician.
- Handling the loser’s interview. What to say when you want to say nothing.
- Controlling the winner’s interview. What not to say when you want to say everything.
- Managing the favourite’s interview. How to say anything can happen when you can only see one outcome.
- Dealing with the underdog’s interview. How to say anything is possible when all you can see is the impossible.
- Answering the difficult question, by not answering it.
- Ignoring the irrelevant question, by answering a different one.
Interviews for radio, television, print and podcasts are all different in tone and reach. The specifics of handling each one successfully vary depending on the platform and circumstances, but the basic principles remain the same. The student will be given the opportunity to apply and practise these principles in a wide range of different interview scenarios. The do’s and don’t’s are constants.
- Ask yourself what the questioner wants from you for their own particular platform. Decide in advance how much of that you want to give them.
- Rehearse the interview that you want to give beforehand in your mind and try to stick to your script. Anticipate problems.
- Try to speak beyond the interviewer to the public they represent. Identify and visualise the audience you are reaching.
- Don’t be led into discussing matters that are none of your business. Be diplomatic.
- Don’t be led into giving direct yes/no answers to direct yes/no questions. Diffuse the bombs, don’t detonate them.
- Moderate direct praise or criticism for individuals. It’s a team game played by human beings with human errors in them (and jealousies!).
- Disarm the difficult question with a knowing smile and a non-committal response. Defend the good balls, hit the bad ones.
- Don’t say anything you can’t back up or will later regret. Better to say nothing much than too much.
- Try to be a good loser and an even better winner. Be humble and respectful even if you’re not feeling it. Be nice.
- Edit the content in your mind as the interview progresses so that your chosen soundbite gets broadcast or published. Repeat your message.
Public-speaking can be scary if you are not used to doing it, but you probably already are. Nobody gets through a playing career without standing up in front of the rest of the team and having your say, or standing up for yourself and answering questions in a heated dressing-room inquest, or standing on a table and singing an initiation song. Drawing on your experiences of speaking up for yourself can help equip you to speak at an event – with a little advice from our experts.
Types of Events
- Hosting or moderating an awards ceremony or corporate forum – and lessons to be learnt from conducting a pre-match meeting
- Delivering a keynote speech to a conference – and lessons to be learnt from speaking to the dressing-room at half-time.
- Participating in a panel session with questions from a host or audience – and lessons to be learnt from discussing a game with your team-mates at full-time
Your social media accounts are in your name, and your name and reputation must be positive assets in your career going forward. Protect them, promote them. Learning to use social media to your benefit is a lesson in life itself. One mistake can be your last mistake. Only one person is responsible for your social media activity and by taking this course, you are taking more responsibility for learning how to negotiate the minefields of Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and Instagram.
Our professionals will help and advise you with...
- Selecting the correct platform for any message or experience you want to share. They are not all the same.
- Composing, editing, checking and reviewing content before you post. Quality over quantity. Hurt nobody and you won’t get hurt.
- Managing reaction to your posts and dealing with praise, criticism and abuse. Riding out Twitter storms and worse. Crisis management.
- Setting up and monetising your own YouTube channel.
- Preparing for podcast appearances and creating your own marketable content.
Sensing danger on a football field is an invaluable instinct for any player, sensing danger off the field is as important for a player looking to further his or her career in coaching, media or any kind of management. Rightly or probably wrongly, certain kinds of mistakes are not easily forgiven. Crisis is an overused word in football but learning to see it coming and dealing with it are insurance policies well worth taking out.
This part of the course prepares the student for the worst case scenario by looking at...
- Examples of communication crisis
- Keys to anticipating a crisis building
- Identification of the source of the problem and how to predict possible scenarios
- Evaluation of the best alternatives for a response from immediate apology and acknowledgement to keeping your head down
- Scheduling a plan of action and selecting the most appropriate channel of communication
- Medium and longer-term expectations of successfully finding solutions and dealing with reputation damage
- Making sure it never happens again. Lessons learnt.