Aaron Judge Hits Baseballs and Media Interviews Out of the Park
Media training isn’t just for crisis response. It’s just as valuable for responding to success. Coming across the wrong way in media interviews can turn a golden moment into dirty penny.
Aaron Judge, the New York Yankees slugger who has tied Roger Maris’ American League record for 61 homeruns in a season, demonstrates an “uncanny ability to say everything we could ever want to hear while not saying a whole lot at all. It’s quite impressive,” according to Jesse Dorey of pinstripealley.com. “This man has perfected the lost art of media communications this year.”
Competing for the American League Triple Crown and chasing historic homerun records could be cause for some self-congratulatory bragging. Instead, Judge has put his achievements behind the team’s goal to win the World Series. When he tied Maris’ record, Judge told reporters, “It is an incredible honor.”
“Judge has clearly been trained to get in, give a quote or two that the reporter can use, and get out,” Dorey observes. “He typically sticks to the same script and hits the same points over and over again, regardless of the topic.” Others may follow the same media training playbook, he adds, “but has an uncanny ability to come across as entirely genuine like he’s speaking from the heart. In addition to perfecting his game on the field, Judge seems to have perfected his media game as well.”
Most clients seeking media training in connection with crisis communications preparation or an actual crisis response. Some clients want media training to improve their speaking and presentation skills. Few come knocking to pick up tips on how to speak about success.
In his article about Judge, Dorey notes how fellow Yankee Gerrit Cole, a star in his own right, has come across as flat in news conferences. “Unfortunately for Cole, his training, if he received any from the organization, appears to have failed him,” he concludes. In truth, very few people prepare for how to discuss victory without coming across as arrogant, insensitive or worse.
It makes sense for star athletes who are called on to talk with reporters after big games, win or lose. It’s also logical for attorneys handling high-profile cases to be ready to speak into the microphones after a jury verdict. But it also makes sense for many other organizational leaders. The appropriate media training is how to handle situation that don’t qualify as a crisis but demand a comment.
Media training should be viewed as a key element of leadership training. Many leadership and MBA programs incorporate media training. The focus of this the of media training is to craft key messages, talk about what you know and speak in sound bites for quotability. All good stuff, but not exactly preparation for “speaking from the heart”.
Talking about success has as many land mines, and perhaps more, than admitting failure or providing crisis response. The words and body language must convey pride, not hubris and confidence, not swagger. And they must be genuine. That’s a much taller order than you might think.
Judge is a 6-foot 7-inch superstar with a powerful swing and rocket arm. He looks like a superstar. He is popular with teammates and fans love him. He is having a historic season. However, before league play started, Judge and the Yankees failed to agree on a contract extension, preventing him from becoming a free agent at the end of this season. Judge could have expressed disappointment, even anger (though he will receive $19 million for his services this season). Instead, he played it cool: “You’re disappointed, but like I said it’s just an honor to be discussing those kind of talks.” Then he went out and hit 61 and counting homeruns.
Judge Is a power hitter at the plate and at the microphone. He obviously works hard for success at both.
Judge may be as talented in front of microphone as he is on the baseball field. But chances are good he trained as hard to give positive interviews as he did to hit 98 mph fastballs. In addition to sounding genuine, Judge appears to be at ease with his on-field domination. As a result, he has everybody rooting for him, including notoriously cranky and demanding Yankee fans.
Media training to respond to success isn’t as critical as media training for crisis response. A crisis can engulf anyone, any time. Comparatively, success is scarce. But when success is anticipated, is on the horizon or just a likely possibility, this kind of media training can be invaluable. It is all-body training to ensure posture, facial expressions, tone and words exude confidence, satisfaction and a touch of genuine humility.
Being great doesn’t guarantee sounding great. If you think talking about success is easy, check out some of Elon Musk’s media encounters. Musk is unquestionably great, his media performances not so great. Organizations should consider media training for their star performers so they shine in media interviews and award ceremonies as much as they do at their jobs.
Success is hard won. Talking effectively about success is no different.