I really liked this little snippet from a recent interview with Brian O’Driscoll on the Clare Balding Show on BBC Two.
Brian O’Driscoll, or BOD, is obviously a rugby legend, and his record at the highest level of professional rugby speaks for itself.
Yet he is also regarded by many as incredibly down to earth, an impression that can be hard to cultivate and maintain.
This short extract exemplifies his down-to-earth nature.
Here he tells a story about a young Brian O’Driscoll encountering David Beckham (albeit from afar) at an awards ceremony and becoming star-struck and maybe even a little infatuated.
In sharing this anecdote, he shifts his footing from being a professional rugby superstar to being a gushing fan. Such an action can work to create a closer connection with fans as it indicates that he is prone to the same behaviour as many of us when we see a global celebrity.
Of course, I doubt BOD planned to use his story to strategically make a connection with the audience. But that, in a roundabout way, also contributes to this down-to-earth perception. It came across as natural or authentic.
For those helping professional athletes, actors, politicians and others who are in the public eye make a connection with audiences, there are several points to note from this short clip.
Obviously, choosing shows and genres that suit your ‘client’ is crucial, as is understanding the normative behaviour on those shows. BOD looked right at home on a chat show and seemed comfortable with the goals of these interviews – to reveal a bit about yourself.
But it is also important to help them consider how they can connect with their fans through their communicative choices and stories. This can involve thinking critically about suitable connections between your stories and your audience, including what stories to tell, how to tell them and when to tell them. Getting these choices right can help to create an ‘authentic’ interactional experience.
There is, of course, a certain element of strategy involved in such advice. But it should not necessarily be seen as devious. We all want to put our best foot forward in our professional lives and professional athletes and public figures are no different.