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 I quietly applauded Naomi for taking a stand for what she believed were outdated rules and went on scrolling my social media feed.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

Planning for the PC (Post COVID) World

I find infrastructure planning related issues fascinating.  The complexity of it, and the requirement for long-term strategies to come up with solutions that not only solve today’s issues, but generational ones.  A local example would be road widening projects within your community or if a roundabout should replace a traffic light. 

An even bigger example is one I heard in the late 1990s about undeveloped countries and the issue of connecting villages.  Without phone access, people needed to travel to the next village and were often cutoff from the outside world. Not an easy task if vehicles are scarce.  Instead of building a physical telephone line infrastructure, the solution was to skip phone lines altogether and jump straight into a new technology using cell phones with towers replacing the need for telephone wires.

With thoughtful planning, solutions are available and achievable.  As 2020 thankfully comes to a close, I kind of feel like many businesses are staring at a similar opportunity as they look to the PC World. PC as in Post COVID. 

We’re finally seeing around the COVID corner. With the election in our rearview mirror and vaccine distribution starting, it’s easier than ever to see an ending of this unprecedented time.  Sure, we’re months away from people gathering together in mass, but the start of 2021 feels like the year when “the world re-opens.”  As we believe the finish line is in sight, it should also serve as a wake-up call to many businesses. They better start preparing for the PC world now or risk their business being too far behind their competitors to catch up.

We couldn’t predict COVID, which is why many businesses had trouble adjusting.  But knowing there’s the light at the end of the tunnel means we need to start thinking about new approaches now.  This need to plan mindset isn’t reserved solely for hibernating companies that purposely paused or struggled during the pandemic.  Companies that pivoted to existing COVID realities and found an opportunity to grow their business during this time, need to start preparing and positioning themselves for what’s next after the immediate fear of contracting COVID subsides.

COVID isn’t going away any time soon, even after vaccinations are commonplace.  Vaccines aren’t a cure. Caution and awareness of the importance or reducing risks will remain for years even as people will slowly start gathering in groups again and face-to-face interactions return.  We’re likely to see a mindset shift among the public beginning this Spring or summer. 

This provides an opportunity for companies who plan ahead for it.  Needs won’t change, but how we talk about them likely will.   We’re also likely to see businesses and institutions trying to return to their pre-COVID normal by fall.

Now is the time to plan, and to start establishing your company in the new marketplace. View Q1 and maybe part of Q2 as planning time and as an opportunity to reintroduce or reposition your company by utilizing a strong public relations strategy. Using this time to rebuild or grow your brand may prove vital because by  Q3 we’re going to start seeing some companies winning, and others falling too far behind to regain their previous market share.

Think about what is likely to occur once the vaccination levels reach 75% or herd immunity is established.  One simple example is that people will be anxious to explore and travel again, once confidence in public safety returns.  Travel destinations and attractions should be planning now how they plan to attract people. 

Companies also need to be wary and thoughtful of what’s going to happen next.  If asked what the first thing I’d want to do in a group post COVID would be, I’d say that I’m most excited to attend concerts again with thousands of other fans.  The challenge might not be getting me to go to a concert, but how many I’ll be willing to attend, financially.  I expect the 12-18 months after COVID there are going to be a glut of concerts worth attending as every band is anxious to get back on the road and generate revenue. The problem is that concert goers still have limited bank accounts, so fans are going to have to pick and choose, which is likely to result in a lot of lost ticket sales for bands who are used to sell-out crowds.

It’s going to be the same for businesses. Every competitor is going to be fighting for the same $100. It’s the businesses that have their strategy and plan in place that are most likely to win, while those starting to rebuild late find that all the key customers have already chosen their vendors, and that available cash has already been spent.

The lesson is that now’s the time for your company be planning for the Post COVID world.  Whether your company is just starting to rebuild after the stress of COVID, or your organization has thrived in this chaos, Q1 and Q2 are going to be pivotal in deciding which companies make it to 2022. 

Now’s the time to map out your destination and make sure your company is ready for arrival in the PC world.  

— written by Josh Weiss, President of 10 to 1 Public Relations

750 news stories in four days, and I wish not one was necessary

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On April 28, 2020 my PR firm signed a new client, Ambulnz, a national ambulance services provider at the time with 1,000 employees in 8 U.S. States and operations in the United Kingdom (they’ve grown rapidly this year expanding their services and geography that ultimately led to them going public, but that’s a success story for another time). I’d been chatting with them for a while, and normally I’d be very excited to get the contract signed. Instead, their reason to sign when they did brought back emotions and memories of the toughest work week of my life back in 2004.  Here’s why.

Incoming Crisis

You may remember when COVID-19 was first becoming a reality in the U.S., New York City was particularly hard hit making it the pandemic focal point of the nation.  Ambulnz had deployed more than 70 employees to New York City to be part of the company’s FEMA COVID-19 response to help New York City’s overwhelmed EMS and healthcare system. Those deployed had volunteered from its operations across the U.S. such as Los Angeles, Tennessee, and Colorado.

One of their deployed Colorado paramedics, Paul Cary, was in the hospital with COVID-19 contracted after transporting New York patients. Doctors said the prognosis looked grim. Expecting the worst, they knew they needed experienced PR guidance. They also needed someone to become the sole primary point of contact for media on behalf of the company, as well as the family, throughout the crisis if Paul did in fact succumb.  

Some quick background for those who don’t know: before launching 10 to 1 Public Relations, I worked in-house leading PR efforts for statewide and national EMS (emergency medical services) companies for several years. The first time I led media relations efforts for a Line of Duty Death (LODD) was in 2004 in the Phoenix area. That experience literally changed my professional career, teaching me the importance of controlling the flow of information and giving me the confidence that I could handle any crisis and that PR was truly my career calling.

So here I was again, 16-years later.  My team quickly engaged, working with the Ambulnz team we began preparing for the worst. Unfortunately, two days later, paramedic Paul Cary died from COVID-19 in a New York City hospital.

Facing Unique Challenges

Any LODD is horrible, but logistically this one was unique. Usually the community outpouring and media interest is limited to a single media market. Living and working in Colorado for more than 30 years, Cary’s Denver community was mourning. With his death occurring in New York City while he came to the City’s aid, New York City was equally mourning. New York City being the largest media market in the U.S. alone can be overwhelming to a media relations department during a crisis but now we were focused on two locations 1750 miles from one another.

Add on top of that, this marked the first death of a volunteer federal responder to New York’s COVID response effort, which created national media interest. National media, New York City media, and Denver-area media. All at the same time, from different time zones. Three because it wasn’t only Denver and New York, but media was also being coordinated from Arizona where my team is located. 

Another challenge: We had never actually met any member of the Ambulnz team before, only a few phone calls with two or three people, so we needed help identifying the right contacts within the organization to get whatever we might need.

The final challenge was we had to do everything remotely because of social distancing. Flying our team into one of the cities to assist on the ground just was not doable.  

In the end, over a 4-day period of 15+ hour days, I think that week was one of the most professionally and personally gratifying work experiences I can recall. 

Enacting the Crisis Public Relations Plan

Ultimately there were more than 750 news stories in four days. We coordinated interviews and worked with reporters from some of the country’s most recognized national media outlets like CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. We coordinated interviews and worked with local print reporters and TV affiliates in New York City and Denver like the Denver Post, the New York Daily News, WABC, WNBC, Denver7 and KUSA. And we did so quickly and equally, regardless of the media outlet’s size so that every reporter felt like they got our full attention.

Developments that led to a lot of the media interest included public statements from the Governors of New York and Colorado, as well as the Mayors of Aurora, Denver, and New York City. The biggest surprise to me came from the Mayor of New York City when during a press conference surprised us all to say that a monument would be built in Paul’s honor recognizing his sacrifice and all the healthcare workers that came from out of state to help the city when it was needed most. 

The New York City Fire Department helped coordinate a massive funeral procession of emergency vehicles, only to have that effort matched in Denver with a 160-vehicle procession. Both the Newark and Denver Airports allowed bagpipes and full honors as the casket was loaded and unloaded from the plane, and both airports saluted the flight with water cannons as it taxied to and from the gate.

These efforts, and participation by other agencies and officials, made a huge impact on other first responders and healthcare workers as well. I’m proud that we had the opportunity to successfully help share it with the public through the media.  

Full Circle

My pride extends beyond our media efforts. We also coordinated all the public statements, employee outreach, coordinated with the family to generate and share their public statements, and also assisted with the planning of the public events as Paul’s body returned to Denver that Sunday night. 

To think of what was accomplished so quickly, I can’t help but think of how many people contributed to the efforts to share Paul’s story with so many. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude towards the many local PR pros that stepped up to help in Denver and New York since I couldn’t be there personally on the ground to do it myself. I cherish the kind notes from media folk and other agencies for how we performed, and for the quality of the communications we shared. 

Throughout this whole experience, there’s been one more emotional tie-in that has taken me back to my first LODD. The date Ambulnz called me to hire us and seek our help regarding the LODD was 16 years to the day of Tammy Mundell’s death, the first LODD I worked which solidified my career path. With that first experience in mind constantly through the week, I was able to lead my team with a solid plan and deliver the results our client was looking for.

Thank you to first responders

My team and I would like to thank our country’s first responders serving on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. We have immense gratitude for the work that you do every day to help those in need and keep our communities safe. Thanks to you and your families, from the bottom of our hearts.

Finally, I hope that my recap doesn’t come across as self-serving.  I actually wrote this nearly a year ago for myself, but never published it.  A year later, as we approach the last week of April and these solemn anniversaries, I keep thinking about how it impacted me personally so I thought it worthy of sharing, now.

Rest in peace, Paul Cary.  Rest in peace, Tammy Mundell. 

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Mayra Vasquez

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Mayra Vasquez


Mayra Vasquez – Public Relations Coordinator

I am a recent ASU graduate with degrees in English (Writing, Rhetoric, & Literacies) and Communication. I’ve always loved writing, but I knew I wanted a career in public relations because I’m invested in how a message is crafted and how audiences respond to the story told. I’m also a lover of horror movies, rock music, and Thai food.

But first, the company had to completely change its original focus.  Title Alliance started out as the Title Abstract Co. of Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1948.

What’s your favorite book?
The Humans, by Matt Haig

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
The right opportunity is waiting for you.

Your favorite magazine, publication, or outlet?
VICE or Vox – I love the interesting stories they report.

What’s one lesson you’ve learned from your time in Public Relations?
You can’t control everything and sometimes you’re going to have just work with what you have.

When you’re not at work…
I love going out with friends and family to discover amazing places in Arizona like scenic places in nature or the best local restaurants. I also have two little nephews who are my entire world and I love spending my time with them and watching them grow up.


A Lesson for Business During March Madness

A Lesson for Business During March Madness


It’s that time of year- The March Madness college basketball tournament.  If you’re not a college basketball fan, keep reading. Don’t worry, what I’m going to share should still make sense.

Like a lot of people, every year I complete a bracket of the participating teams to predict a winner. But, in truth, I barely pay attention to college basketball during the season.  So how do I choose which team I think will win?

Sometimes I favor teams from my hometown simply because I want to see them win, or the team representing the mid-major conference that my alma mater plays in.

Like most people, I usually just go with the teams I’m most familiar with, or the teams with higher rankings. 

Duke Basketball is the perfect example.  For the first time in decades, Duke did not make the tournament, but had they squeaked into the field of 64 my assumption is that a lot of casual basketball fans would have chosen them to make the Sweet 16. Simply off of name recognition, awareness of their team history, and out of respect for their well-known coach.  Their legacy matters- and people are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt even during a tough season. 

A lot of people choose a product or business the same way. 

There’s comfort in familiarity.  There’s confidence in a track record of success, even if the current task is something new.  Belief in individuals transfers to trust in an organization.

How does a business achieve this?  By playing the long game and promoting their successes along the way.  It’s not by announcing one big new contract, it’s by announcing a steady stream of contract wins over time.  It’s not by creating one single event, it’s by promoting numerous events throughout the year.

One good season or one good story isn’t going to earn long-term loyalty. It’s repetition of actions, over long periods of time, which ultimately breeds public confidence. It’s that awareness and reputation which will sustain a company even during a rough patch.

Finally, allow me to share one last off-topic story simply because it makes me smile every year around this time.  Probably a good 15 years ago or so, a friend of mine had a vasectomy.  He had to book it far in advance because he wanted the timing to coincide with the start of the basketball tournament.  Turns out he had to book early because a lot of guys have the same idea. They figure if they had to sit at home with a bag of frozen peas in their lap for a couple of days, they might as well do it while there were constant basketball games on TV!  



Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Marcia Brookey

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Marcia Brookey


Marcia Brookey, APR – Senior Account Executive

I have lived in many cities and countries: Brazil, Italy, Israel and the United States. I enjoy starting a new life in a completely new city – although unpacking is a beast! I have over a decade of experience in marketing and public relations. I am a native of Rio de Janeiro and started my career in public relations in Sao Paulo in 2009. There, I served clients in the publishing, construction, architecture and interior design industries. But I married an Okie, and so in 2011 we moved to Tulsa, OK, where I consulted in public relations and market research for three years. Over the last six years I managed marketing and public relations for a large financial services organization in Oklahoma. I feel fortunate to have relocated with my family to the Phoenix area. I am ready to bring my experience and skills to The Valley and help boost brands!

If you didn’t work in PR, what would you do?
I would be teaching Communications and Film at the university level. Before working in public relations, I earned a master’s degree, taught undergraduate classes and published a book about documentary film.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
The right opportunity is waiting for you.

What is your most memorable PR experience?
Bragging, not bragging. I’ve put my client (the Brazilian Association of Ceramic Tile Manufacturers) on the front page of the largest business and financial newspaper in Brazil – the Brazilian version of Wall Street Journal. It was a homerun.

When you’re not at work…
I am hiking the beautiful Arizona and New Mexico trails and mountains, reading, traveling with my kids and husband, watching documentaries, taking care of my houseplants and trying to become a better photographer.

What’s one lesson you’ve learned from your time in Public Relations?
Public relations is a long-term commitment to building mutually beneficial, trustworthy relationships with many, if not all, your stakeholders.

Who’s your celeb doppelganger?
I don’t think I have one, but a friend insists that I remind him of Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman. Yeah, right! I wish…


PR for the Win

PR for the Win.


While this new year has just begun, it already feels like a sprint. Not just from the renewed energy of our current clients, but as demonstrated by the significant increase in prospective client inquiries that we’ve already received this year.

Why is this year different? Significant change is imminent.

2021 initially might feel like a continuation of 2020, but the ending will be far different. I’m not just talking politically, but as it relates to the pandemic and ultimately the economy. The general public can finally see a potential end to the pandemic once enough vaccines are administered. Businesses are seeing it too.

But this year, it’s like everyone is on the same compressed schedule to make up for time lost due to the pandemic, forcing many companies to work harder to ensure they’re at the front of the pack when potential customers cross the pandemic finish line. 

Thinking about this finish line, I can’t help but think about how a company’s PR strategy correlates to a race day strategy.

Back to high school when I ran track, my primary race was the 400 (one quarter of a mile) or one full loop around the track. I was decent at it. My freshman year, my best time was 55 seconds, good enough to earn a spot at regionals. My coach tried me in some other races like the 100, but I didn’t have a great start out of the blocks so my times were never great. He tried me at the mile, and while I started strong, I would fade to the back of the pack as the race went on. 

My success at the 400 wasn’t based on technique or skill. Ultimately it came down to one thing: I always ran the race as a flat-out sprint. I wasn’t the fastest out of the block, but I was by far the fastest in the middle of the race building up a lead. By the end, I was running out of gas trying desperately to hold on to the lead that I had built. This often led to my getting passed at the end by a closing competitor who had saved some energy for their sprint to the finish.

It’s okay to sprint the entire way from start to finish, it is a valid strategy for some cicumstances. But if you want to win the race, the strategy is done before you ever step foot on the track. It means before the race even begins you need to know what length of race you need to enter to make sure you end up in the right spot at the right time. Otherwise, you risk of running out of gas as you to watch your competitors run right by you into the arms of your potential customers.

It’s why you see a lot more in-race strategy occurring in longer races. The goal isn’t having your personal fastest time across the finish line, it’s simply about crossing the finish line first. It’s why you often see a clump of runners in a pack despite everyone having a different strategy. The goal is about trying to force the competitors to react the way you desire to advance your strategy to win. The runners with a fast last leg sprint try to stay with the pack and keep the pace slow until the end knowing they can outrun the rest. The runners less known for their sprint abilities may try to push the pace faster early in hopes of leaving others so tired or far behind they have nothing left at the end and can’t catch up before the race ends.

Which brings us back to today’s race to the pandemic finish line. Current predictions are that sometime later this year, we’ll pass a threshold where enough people have been vaccinated and it becomes safe to start gathering in groups again, going back to the office or booking travel plans.

As a business, you need to think about this race route from start to finish and how a public relations strategy can help you come out ahead. Along that route, you need to place different potential “PR story” flags along the way. Maybe the best strategy is placing the flags equal distances apart and simply sprinting as fast as you can through all of them to reach the finish line before anyone else. Or, maybe your strategy is to start off slower and clump more of the flags towards the end to ensure you’re at your top speed as you reach the finish line. 

As a PR firm, my team excels at developing a plan, planting flags and implementing the strategy. If you need help, let us know. We’re already wearing our running shoes and are ready to go.

— written by Josh Weiss


One Last (Genuine) Thank You in 2020

One Last (Genuine) Thank You in 2020

With hindsight finally becoming 2020, I wanted to take this last opportunity to say thank you.

Bluntly, the year was just straight-up unprecedented.  While a difficult year for everyone on so many levels, I’m so humbled and appreciative that 2020 was by far the best year 10 to 1 Public Relations has had, yet. 

I just learned a number that simply amazes me. 

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Jeff Davidson

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Jeff Davidson

Jeff Davidson, Senior Account Executive –

Believe it or not, I have been in Public Relations for more than 15 years. In that time I’ve dressed up in a mascot uniform, been in a dump truck full of LEGO blocks, was on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and ran around SXSW, CES, and HIMSS. Public Relations may seem glamourous, but it’s a lot of hard work. Although I’ve learned a lot from my clients, my coworkers, and my mistakes over the years – I wouldn’t change a thing.

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Sharda Veeramally

Unmasking 10 to 1 Employees: Sharda Veeramally

Sharda Veeramally, Senior Account Executive –

I have been in Public Relation for over a decade and I can bet that most of my family members and friends still don’t know what is it that I do. Do I make ads or write articles for newspapers that don’t really have my name on them? My fellow PR pros can relate to this feeling. Right?! #faceplam. Nevertheless, I’ve had a great start to my career in India before moving to the United States five years ago. It definitely was a tough transition initially, but thanks to my amazing coworkers and clients for making it a smooth ride. It’s been a fulfilling journey, to say the least, and I am just getting started!

  1. If you didn’t work in PR, what would you do?
    Maybe a professional dancer or a theater artist – still telling stories, just like I do in PR!
  2. When you’re not at work …
    You’ll find me running around with my 2-year-old or in the kitchen experimenting with a new recipe.
  3. Best advice you’ve ever been given?
    The best advice I ever received was from my parents to “always trust your unique path and keep putting in the hard work. Everything will fall in place.”
  4. What’s your favorite quote?
    “Stay hungry, stay foolish” – Steve Jobs
  5. If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
    Maybe the power to change things instantly at the blink of an eye, like in the show “I dream of Jeannie.” I would use it every day to spruce up the house after my toddler destroys it! ?