The Baseball Strike Communications Lesson That Lingers

Thanks to news coverage, I know that I’m writing this post 25 years to the day after the monumental Major League Baseball strike. That helps me remember something I learned then that is still relevant now.

The players went on strike after the games on Friday night. On Saturday morning, I was producing a local TV newscast in Atlanta. The strike was obviously the lead story. On Monday, I sat down for an “aircheck” session with my executive editor, who wanted to go through the tape (it was a tape back then) of the newscast to give the young producer a few pointers. One really stuck.

He thought I had produced the lead of the newscast well. From what I remember, I opened with recorded aerial video of the empty Fulton County Stadium, then cut to video of Braves player leaving their road game on strike. The script said something like “Fulton County stadium could be empty for a long time as Major League Baseball players are now on strike.”

My boss then told me something that could help anyone writing a newscast, a news article or a press release today. “Think about the audience. Our audience doesn’t care about ‘baseball players.’ They care about the Braves.”

Good point.

When communicating to any audience, knowing that audience remains paramount. Talk directly to them in words that will get their attention, speaking their language. When talking to a local audience, think local and speak local.

I’ve been in client situations before where two intractable sides have gone at each other, over a prolonged period, alienating their communities. At least once, I’ve made analogies to the Baseball strike, when there was nobody to root for an no winners. That’s a good lesson to remember.

But so is the one about how to refer to baseball players on TV. In the word business, you can’t go wrong thinking about your audience first.