To Team USA:

Congratulations! You have achieved your dream, you are in PyeongChang now, and the Opening Ceremony is in two days. You are among the very best in your sport and you are so ready for the Olympic Games to begin.

But … are you ready for the Image Games?

Here are 5 points to remind you – and anyone who cares about their brand and reputation – how to view and play the media game:

1. Reporters have a job to do. They need to tell a story and include quotes to support the story. Without quotes, it would be an opinion piece. Sure, they get it wrong or twist things sometimes (usually unintentional) but, like you do with competition, stay focused and do your best to influence the outcome.

2. Play offense, not defense. Have an offensive strategy. Know how you like to talk about yourself, your sport, the competition, winning/placing/losing. Don’t play defense and simply wait for the questions to come at you only to have to think and respond on the fly. In other words, be prepared for what you know are the “usual suspect” questions.

3. Be gracious. About everything and everyone. At all times. Take the high road. Anything less sounds like sour grapes, sore winning/losing, or just plain ungrateful. Even if there’s a competitor that you and everyone else would like to pounce on, resist. On a world stage, in the spirit of sport and peace, give everyone the benefit of the doubt and stick to what you know best – yourself and your own performance. In the end, throwing shade on others casts more doubt on you than it does on them.

4. Be transparent. Be real. You are likely to be extremely real on social media, so be consistent when you talk to the traditional print and broadcast media. It’s okay to be vulnerable, emotional, frustrated or upset. Just own it and be gracious about it. Even crying is okay, everyone can empathize. The more real you are, the more accessible you are; the more accessible you are, the more your appealing you and your image are.

5. Maintain perspective. Everyone, spectators and reporters alike, would give anything to be in your shoes (or skis, skates, luge, bobsled) even for only 2 minutes. You, during these 16 days, are the darlings and envy of your country and the world. Reporters, because they get to be so close to you and the “field of play” for these 16 days, are especially prone to fandom. They’re there to be an insider as much as anything else, so keep that in mind. The only people looking to take you down are your competitors. Everyone else is pulling for you, even the media.

It’s hard enough to do a good job – in your case, deliver a world-class performance and make your families and country proud – when you compete. But then, moments later, when you’re confronted with a microphone and camera, the job continues. Hopefully these 5 points will help you wrap your head around delivering a medal-winning performance in the Image Games too. Go Team USA, we’re rooting for you!
Beth Levine