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‘The boys gave 110%’: Media lessons from the NRL

As the rugby league season commences for another year, the viewing public can look forward to several months of insightful commentary from the NRL’s biggest stars. Players will surely dig out some of their most nuanced analysis; with quips like: “At the end of the day the team with more points ended up winning”, “I give full credit to the boys” and “We all gave 110%”.

While it’s fun for some perhaps to mock the less media-savvy players each season, anyone who wants, or is required, to speak to media (particularly those who have to give television or radio interviews), can learn a number of important lessons from these muscle-bound media darlings.

Stay on message, but don’t be robotic

Staying on message is an important part of a successful media interview. However, it’s also important to remember that boring repetition can come across just as poorly as a free-wheeling, off-message style. Rugby league players, and indeed many sports stars, are notorious for robotically repeating the messages they have been fed by their media minders.

The notable exceptions are some of the most memorable sport stars in Australia, and some, like the ‘Honey Badger’ Nick Cummins (admittedly a star of rugby union) have built a successful brand off the back of their post-match interviews.

Make sure you really understand your key messages and put them in your own words. You can’t expect an audience to understand what you’re saying if you don’t. By injecting some personality into the interview, your message will connect better with listeners or viewers.

Avoid controversy

Bringing personality into your interview may be important, but the number one job of any interviewee representing a business or organisation is to avoid controversy. Comment’s like James Roberts’ “I’ve got more speed than Oxford St” and Sam Thaiday’s ‘viriginity’ joke can derail your message and become the story.

An easy way to avoid controversial missteps is to rehearse the answers to difficult questions beforehand. And whatever you do, make sure you run your jokes by someone else before attempting them on air.

While rugby league stars may get away with controversial comedy from time to time, a misplaced remark can do lasting damage to a business or organisation’s brand.

Enjoy yourself

The most successful sports interviews are always delivered by players who are at ease, and comfortable making the most of the opportunity to speak to media. Think of Jonathan Thurston’s trademark laugh. His chortle is a key part of his relaxed interview style.

Remember, more often than not, journalists are not out to get you. An interview is a great opportunity for you to get your organisation’s messages out there and build your personal profile. Be excited, be engaged and enjoy yourself.

The 2018 National Rugby League season is sure to deliver up its fair share of gaffes, but with the right preparation and the right attitude, you can avoid their mistakes and give every interview 110%.