PR Was The First Win of The Yzerman Era

Amid the euphoria of Detroit Red Wings great Steve Yzerman returning to the franchise as its general manager is an impressive piece of PR.

The team controlled the announcement of its own news as much as any organization could be possibly be expected to own a story of this magnitude, in this environment.

Unless you’re a hockey fan, or especially a Red Wings fan, and understand the nuances of Detroit, you probably don’t understand how big of a story this is. A decade of speculation led to nearly a year of near obsession about whether or not this move could be possible. Here’s one of many anecdotal examples of how top of mind this has been for so long: At the end of an event at Little Caesar’s Arena in February, I handed my coat check stub (#19, same number that Yzerman wore as a player) to the woman behind the table, leading her to ask “19? Do you think Stevie will come back?”

With multiple beat reporters in the U.S. and Canada fixated on this possibility, the risk level was high for the story to be leaked in a way that would be counter to the team’s presumed objective of controlling the timing while dictating the narrative. But on Friday morning, it all worked as effectively as Yzerman in the faceoff circle.

At 6:12 a.m. Detroit Time, the Red Wings tweeted that they would be holding a 3pm press conference with team CEO Chris Ilitch, previous GM Ken Holland and Yzerman. That was the catalyst for news coverage to kick into action, creating headlines for fans to wake up to on Good Friday, which for many was a holiday off work. Within an hour, it was the lead story on the team’s relevant news outlets and remained that way throughout the day and well into the weekend.

Simultaneous to that tweet, sportscaster Gord Miller, who works for TSN in Canada and NBC in the U.S., posted on Twitter that Yzerman would become the team’s GM and Holland the Senior Vice President, clarifying information that was missing from the Red Wings’ social media announcement. It’s possible that Miller had the news in advance, but agreed to wait to report what he knew until the team’s announcement. That helped make sure nothing was lost to interpretation.

What we know for sure is that a tidy announcement started intense “buzz” nearly 9 hours before the press conference and helped set a tone for coverage that helped the Red Wings dominate the news for the team’s key audiences.

We frequently tell clients to take advantage of their own communications platforms. The Red Wings have 1.24 million followers on Twitter, including all of the journalists who they want to report team news. For their biggest story in recent memory, the team took full advantage of its ability to break its own news. That’s the first victory of the Yzerman Era.