Lessons in Media Relations from Derek Jeter

Sure, Derek Jeter is a great athlete…but can he teach us anything about communications and media relations strategy?

Kwittken + Company CEO/friend of the site Aaron Kwittken’s most recent Forbes story says “yes”. In fact, Kwittken goes so far as to call the veteran shortstop “one of the greatest communicators of all time.”

His points:

  • Jeter sidestepped the sports media entirely by announcing his retirement on Facebook (which he primarily used to promote his charity in the past), prompting The Boston Globe to call him “the Yankee you can’t hate
  • When the frenzy around his search for that 3,000th hit got too hot in 2011, he turned not to ESPN but to HBO, which made a documentary about the story:

  • When facing questions he doesn’t want to answer (like whether he hit the field too soon after an injury), he always keeps his cool
  • While he’s encountered rumors about his dating habits, he’s managed to nurture a squeaky-clean image that makes other athletes jealous over a career lasting more than two decades
  • Seriously, though: compare his reputation to that of a certain less fortunate teammate…

So Jeter likes to address the public on his own terms—and who doesn’t? The difference between him and most public figures is that he’s been able to stick to that principle.

Tomorrow, he will give his first “post-retirement” press conference, and of course everyone in sports media will be paying attention. How will he display those legendary communications skills in explaining why he decided that now is the time to end his career?

More importantly, what can we learn from his approach to media relations?

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.