Never thought I’d say this as a current PR professional and ex-journalist, but I actually like Marshawn Lynch’s media strategy: lack of availability, one-word answers, general disinterest in talking to reporters.
Not a football fan? Here’s some background on Lynch, the Seattle Seahawks running back who probably won’t be saying much in the run-up to the Super Bowl. In November 2014, he was fined $100,000 by the NFL for refusing to speak with media — a contractual obligation for players.
Since then, he’s resorted to a variety of tactics to make his interviews purposely bland — or farcical, like responding to every question by saying “thanks for asking” or simply just answering “yeah.” Would I advocate this approach for a client? Uh … no. In fact, the videos linked above are pretty instructive examples of how not to handle an interview.
And yet … it works for Marshawn Lynch – if only for him. Here’s why:
- He’s true to who he is. Lynch has been called jerk and a thug, but the truth may be that he’s just quiet. It’s clear from earlier interviews that Lynch is uncomfortable speaking to a group, and his teammates have said as much. It’s also clear that, after years of being forced to speak with the media, he’s asserting who he really is. (And frankly, it’s pretty entertaining …)
- He stands out. It’s crazy, but Lynch’s approach differentiates him. Am I writing about Tom Brady’s latest clichéd answer right now? Nope — because we’ve heard it all before. With Lynch’s interviews, we’re getting an interesting commentary on today’s voracious sports media.
- He’s letting others tell his story. The league fines and Lynch’s response have created a (probably predictable) backlash of reports about the “real” Marshawn Lynch: the one deeply involved with youth in Oakland, his hometown, and the one other Seahawks call the “best teammate” they’ve ever had. Having others delivering positive messages about your brand through the media? Sounds like a primary goal of public relations.
Then there’s this: because Lynch has said so little about football, it may be that he’s gotten more attention for his charitable foundation (what he really seems to care about) and for his under-the-media-radar practice of occasionally bringing underprivileged kids to meet the players and coaches.
I have no rooting interest in Marshawn Lynch or the Seahawks (go Ravens!), but in an age when the NFL seeks to exert as much control as possible, I find myself appreciating Lynch’s approach. Having said that, don’t try it on your own …
Scott Beeler runs Beeler Communications, a York-PA public relations and marketing firm. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.