When analysts and pundits were devaluing San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch’s front experience when he was first hired, minimizing his most recent role as a Fox commentator, they may not have been mindful of the reality that public relations and media savvy are an integral part of the job, whether we like it or not. Based on early impressions, John Lynch is already light years ahead of former GM Trent Baalke in terms of media saavy and public relations and it looks like another step in the right direction for the 49ers franchise.
Trent Baalke was known to abhor the media and to be very guarded and withholding of information, often refusing to answer questions directly or giving canned, inconsequential responses that do not really answer the question. When Tim Kawakami wrote an article calling for Baalke’s firing, he described the priority for the new GM to have better people and public relations skills than Baalke, someone who “actually speaks to and likes people”:
The 49ers need a GM who can deal with the media.
The next guy doesn’t need to be a charmer or on ESPN every other weekend. He just needs to understand that the team’s message is blurred or over-ridden when the GM is a hermit who despises having to interact with people who aren’t his underlings.
It’s usually part of the GM’s job description: Be one of the faces of the franchise. Baalke runs from that. The next guy shouldn’t.
But we don’t have to take Tim Kawakami’s word for it, all one had to do was listen to 95.7 the Game’s Damon Bruce’s weekly interviews with Trent Baalke when Baalke was 49ers GM to know that Baalke was a terrible interview, did not come off as helpful or informative and with a tired, boring spirit.
Listen to Baalke being interviewed: Now compare that to John Lynch being interviewed by the same person:
It’s obvious that Lynch is profoundly better at public and media relations than Baalke, but his PR skills extend beyond giving a good interview. He also understand the power of the media to sway public opinion and how it can be manipulated. This understanding was evident in his test of Jed York by making his accepting the job contingent upon Jed York keeping it a secret and not leaking it to the media.
In setting this boundary, Lynch not only sent a message that he is aware of and will not tolerate the culture of secret leaks to national reporters that has become synonymous with the 49ers front office, but also set expectations with Jed that could actually negatively reinforce Jed’s leaking habits, which could in itself help the reputation of the front office.
It absolutely takes much more than good people skills and media know-how to be a successful GM, but in today’s culture of media saturation and social media, these skills can have a huge impact on the organization. Luckily for the 49ers, John Lynch is already showing he has what it takes.