Kraig Kann doesn’t care about your handicap. On the golf course, anyway.
That’s because he’s more interested in helping people – women on the LPGA tour, to be more specific – make the most of their chance to win over the media mouthpieces that could make or break the reputation of their personal brand.
Kann, chief communications officer of the LPGA has spent his career teaching athletes how to have their story translated safely through the quick-to-misinterpret mass media. And now that media is in the hands of the masses (thanks to social media) there’s a lot we can all learn from Kann’s teachings.
1. Always anticipate
The first rule of (social) media readiness is to know your audience. (Hint: your audience now is everyone, for better or worse).
Before you share your perspective, give it some perspective: what would happen if your boss/your client/your competitor/your donor got a hold of what you’ve shared. Would you be embarrassed? Would you want to take it back? If so, don’t share in the first place.
2. Think before you speak
In the age of real-time communications you can be tempted to fire back a response to any incoming message, but short-term thinking can often get you in long-term trouble. Kann suggests always taking 5 minutes before responding to challenging or negative feedback and consider what the long-term effect of your answer may be.
If you’re scared, ask yourself if you’ve spent enough time thinking about the repercussions that may come about because of your answers, says Kann. LPGA players have a responsibility to “represent”… not only their brand but the brand of the LPGA.
“When they earned their tour card, they no longer become just “Jane Doe.” They immediately become “Jane Doe – LPGA Tour player” and that carries a lot of weight,” says Kann. The same is true of every brand.
3. Acknowledge every question, no matter how tough or bad
Brand made a big mistake? CEO did something embarrassing? Product needed to be recalled? Sure, those are all situations that no one would envy, but you can’t hide from the always-on social media hordes. The best advice is to quickly, and politely address the snafu, but then immediately redirect into a more controlled, more brand-positive message, advises Kann.
The advice here is to briefly apologize or acknowledge the negativity, and then begin to focus your message on the proactive action you are taking to right the wrong.
4. Have your own message and goals in mind, always.
Things can get out of hand in social media even if they start off innocently. Don’t be lulled into a sense of false security because everyone on a Twitter hashtag is talking about “things that happened at band camp” and laughing about it. The transcript of that will live on and in the morning, it might not seem as innocent. (See rule 1).
5. Be presentable … image is everything.
You’ve got one chance to make a first impression, so make sure every impression you leave is up to the task of representing you in a positive light.
And remember, advises Kann, “The media ALWAYS gets the last word. If you want to get noticed in the media, be better at what you do than others and make sure your message is worth selling. The more you share, the bigger your brand becomes. The less you share, the more anonymous you’ll remain.”
“The whole concept of “social media” is confusing to some. Social media means – “being social” and some simply use the medium to tell people what they’re doing. Instead, they need to interact with people and talk to people about what they’re doing or what they stand for. It’s all about ‘connecting.’ If people who watch golf tournaments feel connected to the players, they’ll surely tell others about the experience. And that is our goal.”
“We want people to feel like they actually know our players and don’t just watch them compete. Twitter and social media platforms allow players to separate themselves from the competition and become unique brands. I would tell them all not to use social media to beg for a following, but to use it to create one.”
Kann’s work in action:
Suzann Pettersen is a top 5 player on the LPGA tour. The Norwegian star has long been one of the most talented players in the game, having won a major and multiple other events. She reached out to Kann with her agent in December 2011 with the goal of changing her media image. Feeling as though she was perceived as too “serious” on the course, she sought out help on “softening” her professional image. We worked on ways to be more “fan friendly” and create a more energetic and light-hearted atmosphere in the press room. Her new nickname is “smiley.”
[Image: G. McFly]