A Tennis Lesson in Crisis PR

A Tennis Lesson in Crisis PR


What we can learn about public relations in the latest blowup at the 2021 French Open

Tennis fanatics, like myself, have been excited to tune in to the early rounds of the French Open this week, the sport’s most prestigious tournament held on the slippery red clay surface. But even before the tournament started, dirt was being thrown off court when Naomi Osaka, the 2nd seed and arguably the most popular tennis player in the world, announced that she would not participate in the normally required post-match press conferences.

My interest was piqued with the combination of two of my life’s passions: tennis and media. I’m a big fan of Naomi and how she has used her epic platform to advocate for important issues despite being a self-described introvert. However, I also understood how post-match press conferences play a significant role in sharing the stories that come out of these tournaments to promote the sport. I quietly applauded Naomi for taking a stand for what she believed were outdated rules and went on scrolling my social media feed.

I cringed at what happened next. Criticism mounted from tennis media and tennis tournament directors alike. As the tournament began, all the leading professional tennis players were asked about Naomi’s decision in their own press conferences. The news transcended tennis media to reach general sports as well as PR/media outlets. Everyone was talking about how Naomi was selfish and entitled.

After Naomi won her first-round match and skipped her required press conference, she was fined $15,000. Then, the four major tennis tournaments all came together to threaten further action if Naomi continued to refuse to participate in the press conferences.

“We have advised Naomi Osaka that should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences. As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament (Code of Conduct article III T.) and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions (Code of Conduct article IV A.3.).”

At this point, Naomi’s goal to be able to focus solely on her tennis had blown up, and she surprised everyone by withdrawing from the tournament.

Revealing that she has been dealing with depression and mental illness for years, it seemed that everyone who had once criticized her was now offering their condolences, including the four major tennis tournaments who issued a new statement:

Ironically, the president of the French tennis federation read this statement at a press conference… and refused to answer any questions.

Collectively, while concerned for Naomi Osaka’s mental health, everyone seemed to agree that the events that had transpired were generally bad for tennis. The sport’s star player unable to play a major event citing debilitating mental illness. Tennis being branded as an “out of touch” sport that has too many rules. No one appeared to come out a winner.

As I was watching this all unfold, I couldn’t help myself from putting my crisis PR hat on. What could have been done to avoid this terrible situation? My response: a dose of empathy.

When a crisis is brewing, emotions are amplified and tensions mount. I could see this happening in real-time, especially when the four major tournaments came together to issue their original joint statement in an effort to protect the status quo. The whole thing came off incredibly defensive, and created a result that no one actually wanted.

Had the decision-makers for each of the major tournaments applied some empathy, they would have been able to answer the question of why they were dealing with this current situation and how their plan of attack was bound to backfire. Had they applied some empathy, they would have been able to determine a realistic roadmap to achievable goals that worked for everyone. Instead, what we saw was a public shaming of one of the sport’s most beloved players.

What I’m also saying here is that to avoid terrible crisis scenarios like this one, someone needs to be thinking about the big picture and needs to be able to think through all possible reactions to different scenarios. It’s easy to be reactive when dealing with a crisis, but if you spend the time to prepare for all scenarios when not facing a crisis, you will have a much clearer head and be able to consider all sides of an issue when developing a plan.

Next time you find yourself in a crisis, take a breath to apply some empathy. Ask why you are in this situation, put yourself in the other party’s shoes, and truly identify the root cause of the and go from there to find a reasonable solution. Or, plan ahead for a slew of crisis scenarios so that you will always be prepared to get the desired result.

As for Naomi, the ball’s no longer in her court. We’ll have to see what happens next, but tennis will not be the same without her. Get well soon, Naomi.

By Erica Fetherston, PR & Operations Manager at 10 to 1 Public Relations

10 to 1 Public Relations Wins National PR Industry Awards for Agency of the Year and Crisis Communications

10 to 1 Public Relations Wins National PR Industry Awards for Agency of the Year and Crisis Communications


The 2021 Bulldog PR Awards recognizes the most outstanding public relations campaigns and agencies

10 to 1 Public Relations, a strategic communications firm serving clients in varied industries such as healthcare, technology, transportation, finance, and more, announced it had been honored in this year’s Bulldog PR Awards. The 2021 Bulldog PR Awards recognizes both the most outstanding public relations and communications campaigns, and the most extraordinary individual and agency contributions to the industry. The Bulldog Awards are the only PR awards program judged exclusively by journalists.

10 to 1 PR was recognized with a Gold award in the Best Crisis Management category and a Silver award for Small Agency of the Year. 10 to 1 PR saw exceptional growth in the last two years, more than doubling its client list from 10 distinctive clients to more than 20. In addition to adding new clients, 10 to 1 PR is exceptional at retaining clients long term, working with several clients for more than 3 years and as long as 8 years. In 2020, despite challenges that all businesses faced with the coronavirus pandemic, 10 to 1 PR generated more than 5,000 verified news stories for its clients.

“Our team has been working so hard over the last year to help our clients plan for and meet their goals, whether we’ve needed to adapt our strategies or break into new markets; it’s rewarding to receive this kind of recognition for our efforts by one of our leading industry groups,” said Josh Weiss, founder and President at 10 to 1 Public Relations.

“I was very moved to judge this year’s entries due to the pandemic,” says Mary Ellen Walsh, award-winning journalist and Bulldog Awards judge. “Nearly every team had to readjust strategic planning to include a more compassionate look at the power of public relations on a deeper level.”

The full list of winners for the 2021 Bulldog PR Awards is available at https://bulldogawards.com/winners-circle/winners-pr-awards/. Sign up for the Bulldog Reporter newsletter at this link.

Laura Slawny of 10 to 1 PR Admitted to Global Leadership Academy

Laura Slawny of 10 to 1 PR Admitted to Global Leadership Academy


Nine-month Program Provides Participants with Access to a World-class, One-of-a-kind Educational Opportunity 

10 to 1 Public Relations, a strategic communications firm serving clients in varied industries such as healthcare, technology, transportation, finance, and more, has announced that Laura Slawny has been accepted into a leadership development program for emerging PR and marketing professionals in IPREX, a premier global communications network of independent, partner agencies with 1,220 staff and 110 offices worldwide.

Laura Slawny, 10 to 1 PR’s Director of Public Relations

Slawny, Director of Public Relations at 10 to 1 PR, is one of 18 members in the inaugural class of IPREX Academy, a nine-month program that exposes participants to top industry practitioners and seasoned agency principals from the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific as they engage in international staff exchanges, a mentoring program and robust course modules that delve into subjects beyond marketing and communications, providing holistic business management skills. 

“IPREX Academy harnesses the expertise of both members and outside experts to build a unique professional development opportunity for agency professionals who have been recognized as emerging leaders,” said Alexandra Mayhew, IPREX Executive Director. “The seasoned professionals and independent agencies that make up IPREX represent some of the world’s foremost brands, so tapping into that experience is powerful and provides participants with diverse perspectives and learnings that have extremely relevant applications. We are thrilled to have Laura as part of our inaugural class.”

A former television reporter, news producer, and executive producer, Slawny is a gifted storyteller that has earned numerous awards including four regional Emmy awards and the prestigious Edward R. Murrow award. Most recently, Slawny worked as a publicist for another firm where she earned noteworthy local, regional, industry, and national coverage for clients’ media coverage and is excited to bring these talents to assist our clients. Slawny joined 10 to 1 PR in 2018 and was recently promoted to Director of Public Relations to oversee the company’s strategies and direction in serving clients across multiple industries and markets.  

“IPREX Academy has been an eye-opening experience for me, as over the last few years, I’ve learned to leverage my extensive journalism career to generate successful public relations campaigns and initiatives,” said Slawny. “I look forward to applying what I learn in the Academy to support 10 to 1 PR’s continued growth into new industries and markets.”

IPREX received applications from all over the map – from Washington State to New York, from Ireland to Tokyo – for its inaugural class and has tapped more than two dozen experts from different regions of the world to deliver the Academy’s curriculum.

In addition to the IPREX Academy course modules – which encompass business strategy, financial management, leadership skills, and sessions on the importance of diversity and cross-cultural communications – the program offers Academy members a dedicated session in IPREX’s annual Emerging Leaders Conference; a mentoring program; international staff exchange; a global group project; and virtual social meetups, which can range from coffee chats to happy hours depending on participant time zone.

Upon completion of the leadership program, participants will receive IPREX Academy accreditation. Mayhew added: “Dynamic learning opportunities such as this are increasingly valuable as communications and marketing professionals navigate a rapidly evolving and extremely competitive industry. We’re thrilled to launch this unique leadership development opportunity to help keep our members ahead of the competition.”

About 10 to 1 Public Relations

For nearly a decade 10 to 1 Public Relations (10 to 1 PR) has been offering public relations services that are targeted, compelling, and achieve our clients’ goals. 10 to 1 PR’s creative plans and messages are distinctive and memorable with original, highly relevant approaches to storytelling that break through the noise and grab the attention of media outlets and target audiences. 10 to 1 PR offers a variety of services including media relations, product launches, crisis communication management, awards submissions, trade show media, and more. Learn more about 10 to 1 PR’s extensive services and success stories at 10to1pr.com.

About IPREX

IPREX is a $420 million network of communication agencies, with 1,220 staff and 110 offices worldwide working across the spectrum of industry sectors and practice disciplines. For more information or to connect with an IPREX partner agency throughout the world, visit iprex.com