Grace Under Pressure

During the hundreds of media trainings Lois Paul and I have conducted over the years with clients, we often use video clips of great spokespeople and spokespeople who have made mistakes as part of the exercises we facilitate. I am always on alert for new material that can help us with our budding spokespeople (I welcome you to direct me to any clips you think are particularly good or particularly bad), and usually I focus on technology company executives, given our client portfolio. Wednesday morning, however, I was watching a clip of an interview with New England Patriots golden boy Tom Brady and was struck by his poise and how effectively he got across his messages. (I know, I know – how hard can it be for an athelete to deliver messages? And when you have three Super Bowl rings and you look like Tom Brady, handling the media must be a breeze, right? Stay with me a minute and put that aside.)

What was notable to me in this brief video clip was his response to the final question, which must have been about the recent goings-on that have been reported on his personal life (it’s hard to hear the reporter questions throughout the interview). His response is a great example of a graceful bridge from a subject that he doesn’t want to address. He doesn’t give an abrupt, “I’m not going to comment on that,” (you know, like someone else associated with that team) which could lead reporters to suggest he is stonewalling. He doesn’t appear rattled in any way or scornful of the question. Instead, he continues with the same demeanor, the same warm smile and the same eye contact. He lets the reporters know he’s not going to say much in response and that he’d prefer to keep to the topics of the team and the season. He briefly acknowledges life changes and challenges, and then quickly moves right back to one of the messages he’s been delivering throughout the interview — that he’s excited about the season, and is looking forward to seeing how the team does this year.

As a life-long Pats fan, I certainly am, too!  But I’m also very impressed with how he managed to fend off more personal scrutiny than any of our CEO clients will (hopefully) have to face and did it without damaging his relationships with the media. Kudos, Tom!