On Friday, NCAA President Mark Emmert was a guest on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike” radio show (the audio of the interview appears about halfway down this page on the right hand side). ESPN Radio’s social media staff took to Twitter to encourage listeners to share questions using the hashtag #AskEmmert.
 
That’s when things went off the rails. Way, way, way off the rails.
 
The response was rapid, irreverent, and, at times, truly nasty.
 
This represents the general tenor well…
 
Screen Shot
 
 
…but in case you want more, here’s some additional coverage.
 
USA Today
 
Reddit
 
Deadspin
 
If you’re the person who vets media requests and participates in interview prep, there are four lessons to take from this blow-up:
 
Know the conditions of your interview. If President Emmert’s staff didn’t know that the “Mike & Mike” show would solicit questions via Twitter, they should have. It may feel awkward to ask a lot of questions before agreeing to an interview, but it’s the only way to get the information you need to prep and, at times, protect your principal.
 
Know the landscape. Mark Emmert leads an organization that is under great scrutiny and at the center of debates about student compensation and unionization which naturally led to negative comments on a relatively anonymous platform like Twitter. Before agreeing to any interview, know the general tenor of public sentiment toward your institution and your leadership, what kind of reaction this interview might engender, and whether or not you have networks you can activate to counter any negative postings.
 
Pick your platform. ESPN is in all likelihood a must-do interview for the NCAA president, and the interview itself went fairly well for him. That said, keep in mind that not every interview opportunity is worth taking. You’ll want to consider who is conducting the interview, the audience your principal will be able to reach, the potential downsides of engaging with particular reporters or outlets, and how well your principal handles interviews.
 
Remember every public engagement carries risk. Even before the hashtag went public, President Emmert’s staff had to know that this interview would involve some level of risk—see number 2 above. This doesn’t mean you should encourage your principal to hide under his or her desk–there is capital to be earned from engaging with the press as well. But an important part of any media professional’s job is reminding their principal that agreeing to interviews carries risk and preparing them to the best of their ability to mitigate that risk. For more on this, see Teresa’s recent post about prepping for interviews.