Rugby and the media can achieve a lot by working together.
This is the view of former Manu Samoa captain and current head coach of Bristol Bears rugby team in England, Pat Lam, who believes managing relations with the media is important to Manu Samoa rugby and the game of rugby at the highest level.
And the former Auckland Blues Coach would know all about that, considering that during his last year coaching the Auckland Blues rugby team, he was hounded by the media and subjected to public taunts and criticisms over their disastrous season in 2012.
“There are good people and bad people all around the world so of course you’re going to get bad experiences and that’s fine but having the skills to manage the media that cross the line - is invaluable to your rugby career,” he said.
“Ultimately you’ve got to have respect for each other and work together and without that it’s going to be difficult.”
Despite the very public backlash he received over the Blues game performance at the time as their head coach, Lam insists that for better or worse, media is part of the team as well as a platform to get across the message to fans and supporters.
“The media is an important part of our game especially social media but everyone gets the information off media whether it’ social media, print or T.V and for me I see media as part of our team,” Lam said.
“It’s a platform for us to get our key messages out to the supporters and the fans to get to know key people to understand our journey our process and what going through.”
According to the world class coach, applying media bans do not work and engaging with the fans and supporters by being transparent and actively participating in public conversations fosters loyalty and support.
“I know, I’ve seen coaches who put media bans on and make it about ‘them’ and ‘us’ but I think its understanding that we can all work together,” he said.
“At the end of the day, you want all the fans and all the supporters to go a long on the journey with you. Because then they’ll understand when they watch the game of rugby that there is so much work that goes into trying to get the best performance.”
“The more that our fans and the people can understand that journey and understand the individuals and what we are trying to do - the more they get behind the team and I believe that’s a key part of building a successful team.”
Coach Lam emphasizes that media training for players are essential to their success.
“Media is an important part of our game. I went through media training through early parts of my career; I did it with my playing career anyways. But any team that I am involved in, I put all of the players through media training.”
“They need to understand firstly the philosophy that they are there to work together and understand the importance of the media but also then having the skills.”
According to Lam, even world class coaches and management staff need media training,
“Just look at the All Blacks and the stories that come out of the All Blacks, they had to put Steve Hansen through a lot of media training too so we all go through it because it’s important to the game at the top level,” he said.
“A lot of boys or even coaches or management don’t have the sort of media training to be able to articulate themselves to get their message across. We are helping them by taking away that nervousness and manage under pressure in that environment – a lot of training goes into that but I tell you the reward for doing that is huge because it helps our supporters and fans to understand and connect.”