Media training analysis of Lance Armstrong interview

19 January 2013
Lance Armstrong made one critical media training mistake in his interview with Oprah Winfrey yesterday. He failed to convince the audience that he really meant what he was saying. He often said the right thing. For example: “I will spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologise to people.” Great words, but the tone of his voice and body language didn’t convince people that he meant it. Another media training error he made was giving the perception that he didn’t believe he was a cheat at all. When asked by Oprah if he was a cheat, he said he had looked up that word in a dictionary, and didn’t believe he met that definition. From a media training perspective, that only weakened his admission and make people wonder if he really thinks he is guilty. Another big mistake came when discussing a recent phone call with the wife of a fellow rider. When recounting the call, Armstrong admitted calling her “crazy” and “a bitch,” but said he didn’t call her “fat.” He grinned as if this was funny. That was the last thing he should have done, particularly since he has often been accused of bullying. He looked reasonably comfortable throughout the interview, but this failure to express any emotion worked against him. These flaws do raise the question of whether he had any media training before such an important interview. These were quite simple mistakes and ones that any competent media trainer would have ironed out. PS In the second part of the interview that was shown today, Armstrong finally got emotional when discussing how he had let his children down. This was the only part of the two-pronged interview where he appeared totally genuine.

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Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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