New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola recently made headlines in the news. It wasn't for his off-season training program, nor was it for the charitable foundation he just started, but rather it was for hanging up on radio host Adam Jones in the midst of an interview. Amendola appeared on Jones’ 98.5 The Sports Hub show to talk about his “Celebrity Waiter Night” where he and his Patriots teammates would be serving dinner to raise money for kids in need. After Jones started the interview by talking about the event, he began asking Amendola football-related questions including inquiries about the receiver’s injury history. After a couple injury questions, Amendola had enough and hung up on Jones mid-interview.
Listening to the interview, Jones’ line of questions were hardly malicious and likely ones the oft-injured Amendola has faced throughout his career. Amendola may not have liked the subject, but any PR professional would agree that it should never have warranted abruptly cutting the interview off. Unfortunately, due to the ill-advised hang-up, Amendola’s interview has out shined the charitable event he went on to promote with local and national media.
Having staffed many athlete interviews throughout my public relations career, the key to success is always preparation – and not just knowing key messages. When an interview goes awry like this one, it’s typically from a lack of preparation. It doesn't matter whether you’re an athlete, celebrity or CEO – proper interview preparation helps to keep you on message and ready to handle difficult questions. When advising clients in advance of an interview, here are a few preparation tips that I like to share:
1) Understand the Program You’re Being Interviewed On – Would you ever go on “60 Minutes” without watching the program first? How would you know the interviewer’s style and what types of questions are typically asked? At PAN, we always provide full briefing materials for our clients before any interview with background on the outlet and interviewer. Whenever I have worked with an athlete for an off-the-field interview, I let them know that it is a given that on-the-field questions will be asked. Having a better understanding of the potential questions asked could have helped Amendola deal with the football injury inquiries better.
2) Study Your Talking Points – Knowing your talking points in and out is not just for when a direct question is posed to you. It will help you find ways to weave your message into the discussion and transition the conversation when it gets too far off-topic. When the questions shifted toward Amendola’s injury history, which Jones called “unlucky,” he could have used that as an opportunity to bridge the conversation to the mission of his charity and plug the event.
3) Be Equipped for the Worst – With their game performance and many times private lives constantly in the spotlight, there are not many things that athletes can keep under the radar. However, that should be considered an advantage going into any interview because you know that uncomfortable topics could be brought up at any time. This isn’t the first time Amendola’s injury history has been brought up and it won’t be the last. By anticipating what could be asked and preparing for how to handle the question ahead of time (Pro Tip: Don’t hang up), Amendola would have been better equipped to stay on-message and transition the conversation to what he did want to talk about – his charity.
4) Understand the Goal of the Interview – If you don’t have a clear desired outcome for a media appearance, booking an interview is a waste of your time. In this case, Amendola’s goal was to talk about his charity and promote its upcoming event. Unfortunately, he didn't give himself the opportunity to talk about his charitable work and get Patriots fans excited about attending the event because of his decision to hang up the phone. During a game, Amendola would never go down on his own at the 50-yard-line because a defender was in his way and he should never have taken that approach with the media. The end zone was in sight, he just needed to make a move to get the interview back on-track and reach his goal.
My advice to Danny Amendola before he does his next interview: Prepare to answer some questions about hanging up mid-conversation with Adam Jones! How would you advise Danny Amendola before his next interview?