Five media relations lessons from the U.S. Open

By Kaitlyn Hyde on August 27th, 2015

Tennis fans across the world will soon be turning their attention to last grand slam tournament of the year – the U.S. Open. Held in New York City, from August 31 to September 13, this year’s tournament will pair hundreds of players in fast paced-game to crown the 2015 champions.

For fans of the game like myself, we come back for the intensity of each match, the engaging storylines and elite athleticism of the players. Public relations professionals can borrow some best practices from these tennis pros, to ensure our media relations efforts are ahead of the competition and providing media with the story and action they crave. These tips include:

  1. Practice makes a perfect serve (pitch): All tennis players strive to fine-tune their serve into a perfect shot, hopefully enabling them to ace the competition and score a point. It takes practice to get it right, and a player can always improve by making small changes, such as a shift in body angle or how high the ball is tossed. Similarly, small but impactful changes to your pitching strategy can often be the difference between scoring or losing an editor’s interest. A perfectly crafted pitch will combine thoughtful effort, creativity and careful consideration of how the story offered will benefit the editor and his readers.
  2. Relationships matter: At the men’s Wimbledon championship match this year, the stadium’s support for crowd-favorite Roger Federer was palpable as he battled Novak Djokovic for the No. 1 spot. Regardless of the outcome, relationship building is indispensable in tennis and media relations. Strive to know your media contacts and their preferences, and do your best to deliver to them.
  3. Maintain momentum and persevere: Tennis is a fast-paced game, where the ball could travel upwards of 100 miles per hour across the court. Players must be at-the-ready and prepared for the long haul. (Think: an average men’s five-set match often lasts between three and five hours.) When crafting your media relations strategy, it’s necessary to maintain momentum across several outlets and to be prepared to tell your story once, and again by adding new angles and continually cultivating new facts to support your claims. Beyond that, having a bank of proactive story ideas and ensuring subject matter experts are media trained can help drive your strategy forward.
  4. Watch closely, challenge when necessary: Electronic ball tracking enables players to request an official review of a line call, to know with certainty whether a ball landed within or outside of the white-lined box. Because PR professionals don’t have a magic tool providing an official review for each media relations opportunity, we must have critical eye. Ask yourself: Is this the right fit for my company, and will it help accomplish both PR and business goals? Also, it’s important to be especially critical of pay-for-play opportunities, requiring a sponsorship to participate.
  5. Timing is everything: As the U.S. Open this year, Serena Williams hopes to become the first player to win a calendar-year Grand Slam since Steffi Graff in 1988. To get to this point, she’s emerged as the top female contender in three preceding Grand Slam tournaments this year. Not only is timing important in tennis and when securing media relations opportunities, it can also be a valuable factor for your company’s sales and marketing goals. As the line between PR and marketing is increasingly blurred, media coverage should be leveraged via social media and within marketing automation campaigns. It can also be repurposed within blog posts, content marketing projects and more.

What steps are you taking to propel your media relations strategy to champion level?


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