Why every executive should care about the NFL Draft

It’s Draft Day – but why should communications professionals care? If your job includes media relations, we’ll tell you why you should be paying attention. 

It’s NFL draft week: a perennial favorite of mine on the sports calendar. If you’re an executive that communicates with the media, it should be must-watch programming for you, as well. Whether you’re a casual fan or a die-hard, couldn’t pick Tom Brady out of a lineup or hate football altogether, the thought leadership lessons that will be taught over the next several days are critical.

Tune into ESPN for any of this year’s draft programming and you will encounter the incomparable Mel Kiper, Jr. A draft analyst for ESPN since 1984, Kiper exhibits the traits that keep media continually coming back for more. It doesn’t matter if your business is football, technology, media or the supply chain, there are certain spokesperson characteristics that make a good source for the media. Here we’ll review some of the traits that have made Kiper a true thought leader in his field for more than 30 years and the lessons you can apply to your interactions with media.

  1. Have an opinion. Kiper isn’t always right, but he never hesitates to let you know what he believes at that time based on the information he has available. Playing it safe doesn’t work with the media. They will forgive you if you are wrong from time to time, but they have no interest in talking to you if you have nothing to say.
  2. Root your opinions in authority. The reason Kiper has so much credibility in draft circles is because he knows his stuff. There are those that disagree with his analysis, but nobody will ever accuse him of not being prepared. He has information on players from schools some in NFL circles didn’t even know existed. Base your opinion on data and facts and credibility will never be an issue.
  3. Be bold. Don’t leave it for the viewer/reader to interpret what you are saying. Be bold in your opinions and leave no room for doubt. What endears Kiper to millions and frequently infuriates NFL team executives is his willingness to call them out for a bad move. If you have something to say, say it.
  4. Be willing to defend your POV. If you believe in something, be willing to defend your position. There will always be critics that want to cast doubt on what you say, don’t let them dissuade you from an opinion based on years of experience and observation. Kiper does this as well as anyone and never backs down from what he believes to be true.
  5. Show some personality. Just because the subject matter may be dry doesn’t mean you have to be. Don’t be afraid to exhibit passion and enthusiasm. If it’s something you believe in or have strong opinions about make sure your audience knows it. A lack of passion and personality is something Kiper has never been accused of.
  6. Be genuine. Just as it’s important to exhibit passion and personality, it’s equally important not to fake it. Your audience will see right through a veiled attempt at commitment to a topic. As with Kiper, you are either all in or you are all out.
  7. Enjoy what you do. If you hate what you are doing, it will show. If dealing with the media is not something you are comfortable with or is a task you truly hate, either work on it through media training or allow other colleagues to take the lead. The idea is to present the base face of the company, not to go kicking and screaming. Five minutes of Kiper and you’ll realize that he loves what he does.

Maybe you’ll be glued to the TV with your favorite team’s jersey on or perhaps football isn’t your thing. Either way, if your job has you interacting with media or an audience of any kind, you owe it to yourself to watch later this week for a few critical lessons from the pros.