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#WeAreTheThey: What we can learn from Jamelia ’s sizable mistakes

#WeAreTheThey: What we can learn from Jamelia ’s sizable mistakes

Anyone who enjoys flicking through the Mail Online during their lunch break will no doubt be up to date with the latest celebrity scandal involving Jamelia.

The ‘Superstar’ singer has faced public backlash after airing her controversial views on ITV’s Loose Women in a discussion about overweight teenagers, by saying high street stores should not be stocking plus size clothes for them.

“I don’t believe stores should stock clothes below or above a certain weight. They should be made to feel uncomfortable when they go in and can’t find a size.”

Jamelia’s statements quickly sparked a stir on Twitter, with angry viewers attacking the celebrity for her ‘hurtful’ words:


Many woman (and men) have also taken to Twitter using the hashtag #WeAreTheThey to show off their curvy photographs and talk about what it’s like to have a body size that Jamelia deems as unhealthy:


Putting aside my personal views and looking at this purely from a PR perspective, there are several lessons that we can learn from Jamelia’s mistakes:

  1. Pick the right media platform. Loose Women – though a programme which encourages debate – was certainly not the right programme for Jamelia to share controversial opinions about people who are ‘overweight’. The show is targeted to women over the age of 30, many who will fall into this plus-size category or will have strong opinions about the topic, so there was bound to be a backlash no matter how Jamelia packaged what she said. Knowing your media and their target audience is paramount!
  2. Timing. Recently there has been a stream of stories in the press about teenagers who have sadly died after taking slimming pills. Regrettably for Jamelia, the public associated her comments on Loose Women with these unfortunate events, allowing the media to paint her as an even bigger villain. By keeping up to date with what’s going on in the media, situations like this can be avoided.
  3. Respond quickly. One thing Jamelia does seem to have done right is address the situation head-on, and quickly. The singer appeared on Good Morning Britain the same week to respond to the criticism that she had received, and to say that she was sorry for upsetting people. One of the most important things you can do in a crisis is acknowledge the issue quickly. With the advance of social media and online press, speed is paramount so that you don’t let a crisis fester.

HOWEVER, Jamelia’s apology on Good Morning Britain was only to be met with further backlash after the star defended her comments, saying ‘I didn’t make it clear on the show that I was talking about extremes, I was talking about above size 20 and below size six, those sizes being available in masse’ and ‘’I do stand by what I said. I’m a real woman with real opinions. I get paid to voice my opinions.’ Which leads me nicely to my next point…

  1. Think before you speak. Once you’ve said it, there’s no going back. Which is why media training and crisis management is so critical for out-spoken celebrities like Jamelia, who are constantly in the spotlight.

More of our football stars should have media training

Reputation PR football The PHA Group

‘Image courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation on Flickr’

Super Bowl XLVIII will soon be here, following all the build-up, showmanship and usual interest in the half-time show.

This year’s match-up is between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, and it is billed thus: Irresistible Force vs Immovable Object.

The Broncos has the best offence in the NFL, the Seahawks the most brutish defence. For those who enjoy American Football, it should be utterly compelling.

If you have ever been in the US when the Super Bowl is on, you ‘ll know it is a fantastic event, even just to watch on TV while you’re there.

I was once lucky enough to be in the US in the weeks prior to the big game and caught a lot of the build-up.

What stuck in my mind was not so much the fantastic game, but a performance I saw the New England Patriot’s star Quarter Back Tom Brady give.

Brilliant Brady

The brilliant Brady predictably ended up being named the MVP in the game as his Patriot’s narrowly triumphed over the Carolina Panthers (it was the Super Bowl also known for Justin Timberlake being party to Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction in the half-time show).  Brady has been a force in American Football and is one of only two QBs to lead their teams to five Super Bowls (the other being John Elway).

But it wasn’t his performance in the game to which I am referring, but a press conference he gave in the days before.

I remember watching the TV as he sat on a top table, facing a pack of sports journalists, not only from around the USA but the world.

Brady sat there alone, no press officer or PR man in sight (unlike the army of aides Premier League stars have on hand when they are facing the media).

Tom brady The PHA Group

‘Image courtesy of WEBN-TV on Flickr’

Flying solo, he handled question after question with aplomb. He engaged in tactical discussion, faced the tough questions head-on, spoke his mind and was able to share light-hearted moments with the media.

It was nothing short of fantastic.

When I compare that to the way our footballers deal with the media, it really puts us to shame. Not just the players but as a nation.

Brady’s chat was cliché free, comfortable, and more importantly, confident. Most footballers stumble over their words with sentences littered with well-known but forever dull football parlance. Less a game of two-halves, more a tale of two very different cultures.

For a more in-depth look at how the NFL differs in the way it treats the media and is actually written into contracts, you can read this excellent Football Writers’ Association blog here.

Media Obligations

The thought of players being obliged to speak to the media is outlandish here in the UK. Sure, there are obligations which come with TV rights etc, but the system in the States is far superior, certainly from a fans’ point of view.

Some would point to the fact that Americans, as a people, are just far better than we Brits when it comes to talking. That is no slight on either us or them.

The FWA blog rightly points out the college system in the US. Not only does this expose players to the media, but while they are learning their sporting trade, they are continuing with an education.

Most football players in the UK are plucked from school as teenagers before signing pro forms when they are 17 or 18.

Media Training

NFL Logo, Reputation PR The PHA Group

‘Image courtesy of C_osett on Flickr’

But when it comes to sports stars, the fact that the NFL players are media trained is a huge factor.

It means they are equally comfortable in front of a camera or a reporters’ Dictaphone. They can handle most things which are thrown at them.

Fans might say they do not want their heroes coming across as too polished as it means they are not being themselves. In fact, one Premier League club’s media head honcho once told me that he didn’t media train his club’s players because they preferred them to give ‘organic’ interviews.

I beg to differ. Media training actually helps those who receive it – be it a top football player, a company CEO or a charity campaigner – be themselves. It gives them the tools to be confident enough to make their point naturally, to not stumble over words, to take a positive role in interviews rather than being lead through them. Interviewees are not being themselves and are certainly not communicating properly when they are getting in a nervous muddle.

It is true that some players are naturally better than others at speaking to the media. Some already have an eye on a job in the media after they finish playing and Gary Neville and Lee Dixon, in particular, have shown how to take punditry to the next level.  David Beckham’s whole image improved at around the same time he got better at handling interviews.

Making comparisons with a super-star like Tom Brady is tough on anyone, but there has to be a yardstick.

Often with the media, you get one chance to shine.

Leaving dealing with TV, magazines and newspapers to chance really isn’t an option.  A footballers’ coaching should also include media training.