We often talk about the players, of course, but we mustn’t however forget all the people who are working around them: coaches, physiotherapists, chair umpires, PR managers… That’s why I decided to realise some interviews to try to let you discover what the job of these different people involves. And to start, the lovely Katie Spellman, who works with Petra Kvitova, Tamira Paszek and the young and talented Jovana Jaksic, has very kindly accepted to answer my questions to let you discover her job as a PR manager. What are they doing, how they help players… Let’s read Katie’s answers to know it !
First of all, what are the missions of a tennis PR manager ?
My main mission is to raise the profile of my clients, to assist them in having a positive relationship with the international media and with their fans through social media. It is also about telling the client’s story and encouraging their true personality to come across.
I guess there are several ways to become a tennis manager, but is there some key qualifications ?
A background in marketing and communications, plus I find that experience in journalism is particularly useful because it enables you to put yourself in the shoes of the people asking the questions of your client. Languages are also a useful asset.
How do you choose your clients ? What are your criteria ?
I have to genuinely like my clients. It is important to have an open, honest relationship with the client and therefore a mutual respect is essential. I put personality before anything else when deciding if I want to work with a client.
Sometimes players are going through difficult moments, how a manager acts in this kind of situation ?
It is important to provide both professional support – ensuring that the client is ready to talk to the media after a tough loss is one of the hardest parts of the job – and of course emotional support sometimes too. You also need to understand when to stand back and give the client room to deal with a setback, it’s important to know their personality well and understand or even anticipate their reactions.
Is there a difference between manage a player ranked around the 100th place and manage a top 10 player ?
Of course, the demands are much great when a player is in the top 10. It is a lot more about being reactive to media requests rather than proactive. With a lower ranked client the focus is on media training, equipping them with the skills necessary to tell their story, and on proactively reaching out to media agencies.
With the advent of social networks there are more parameters to take into account for communication, do you consider it as a real advantage compared to some years ago ?
Yes, social media is a way of communicating a client’s message immediately and directly. If a company wants to convey a message, the most effective way to do that now is through social media and the same goes for athletes. The difference for athletes is that they now have the opportunity to communicate directly with fans all over the world. Social media is an incredibly important part of an athlete’s life these days. Quotes from Twitter and Facebook are taken as direct quotes and used by journalists so it’s very important for the athlete to think before they tweet, particularly when high emotions are involved in victory and defeat.
You launched your own PR consultancy one year and a half ago after three years at the service of the WTA, are you satisfied of your choice ?
I love doing what I do, I love the clients I work for and the flexibility it allows me. I feel that all the skills I gained through my time in journalism and then at the WTA have equipped me perfectly to run my own boutique PR agency.
And to finish, tennis manager, would you say it’s a dream job ?
Yes, for me definitely. It can be hard sometimes because « tennis never sleeps » and you can never anticipate how a day is going to pan out. But the joy is that every day is different …and I don’t mind riding rollercoasters!