“Be interesting, be engaging, be memorable.” James Pearce, Broadcaster
At 23, James Pearce became the BBC’s youngest-ever regular reporter for the 6 O’Clock News. His career has gone on to span two decades, including covering five Summer Olympics, five Winter Olympics, four football World Cups, three Football European Championships and three Commonwealth Games.
The story that Pearce is arguably most associated with is the London 2012 Olympics.
“I had always wanted to be a political journalist so the mixture of sport and politics fascinated me.”
It was also the London 2012 games that nudged Pearce towards his media training service to help athletes establish their personal brand and make a good impression in media interviews.
“I knew that if I was ever going to do something different I had to do it after London 2012. For all the journalists who covered that story, there was never going to be anything that was going to get close to it.
“I’ve done thousands of interviews and some athletes just
aren’t selling themselves as effectively as they could be”
“I must have done thousands of interviews with athletes over the years and you can see that some of the athletes just aren’t selling themselves as effectively as they could be.
“If you’re getting two minutes on BBC breakfast, for example, that’s two minutes of selling your story.”
Pearce acknowledges that, at times, athletes have a right to be wary of the media. Yet, the journalist is simply trying to get the story from the athlete and ‘winning alone isn’t good enough to make a really good media impression.’
Just as winning doesn’t mean you’ll make a good interview, he also makes the point that, on the other side of the coin, you don’t need to be a champion to establish a strong media profile.
Pearce highlights Tom Daley as someone who has established a strong brand image. He may not be the most decorated athlete but Daley holds a positive image in both traditional and social media.
Another example that springs to mind for this writer is Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards. He was the very worst at his event yet became a popular figure solely because of his personality. His honest, natural style was extremely engaging when in front of the camera.
“You don’t need to be a champion to
establish a strong media profile“
Pearce points out that having an impact in the media is particularly essential for Olympic athletes. The sporting world recognised this, with Team GB and Paralympics GB receiving free media training through National Lottery funding.
“Most of them aren’t making a lot of money, they need that profile. With profile hopefully comes sponsorship and with sponsorship obviously comes an income.”
What are Pearce’s top tips for athletes when for establishing their brand through media interviews?
“Be interesting, be engaging, be memorable. Everyone has got their own personal stories, you need to think of yourself as a sales person. We’re all selling our own stories, what can help to sell us?”
An example Pearce uses is a footballer who has just made it into the England squad. A question response of, ‘I’m really happy, I’m really proud, I’m really excited’ simply won’t cut it.
“If he can say that, every single member of a squad can say it. That’s never going to be interesting, engaging or memorable. So what can they say that is?”
“Show some emotion, show you’re frustrated, show your sad,
the public are much more likely to connect with you.”
Pearce points out that personal content and using your own story is key for an athlete when approaching the media. Especially for making a good impression in media interviews.
“What I like is people who show emotion. If something has gone wrong, be open with the public, they’re on your journey with you.
“If you wear your heart on your sleeve a little bit, and show some emotion, show you’re frustrated, show your sad, the public are much more likely to connect with you. Be yourself, the public want to feel like they know you properly.”
As well as advice for athletes still competing, Pearce also has some for those approaching their post-playing careers. Especially for those looking to step into the media or become sports influencers.
“Lose your ego. You might have been very successful. You might have been very well known, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to make it as a broadcaster. In broadcasting in particular you’re relying on other people.
“Someone who I think has handled it brilliantly is Sir Matthew Pinsent. When he left rowing he went right to the bottom of the BBC just to learn the ropes.
“He did it the hard way. He was a knight of the realm but he was doing some pretty rubbishy jobs. People were very happy to help him and now I think he’s a really formidable broadcaster.”
If you’re an athlete interested in improving the commercial side of your career and better connect with brands, register with caytoo here.
To find out more about James and/or his media training, visit jpmediatraining.com