Publicist:

Solid PR teamwork helps net notable coverage for the AVP

Solid PR teamwork helps net notable coverage for the AVP

I'm poolside at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel, chillin' with Kerri Walsh, the rather attractive Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist.

The Sin City soiree, hottest ticket in town, is hosted by the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP), and marks day two of the "Vegas Shootout." The tourney is one of the final stops of the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball tour, best described as Jimmy Buffet meets Jimmy Connors; Margaritaville within a gladiator arena.

The tour's biggest stars, Walsh and partner Misty May, stole the show in Athens. Forget Olympic ideals, it was sex appeal that drew sell-out crowds. You gonna watch skeet shooting - or half-naked buff athletes spike a volleyball so far down the sand it draws oil?

Alan Taylor Communications publicist Courtney Leddy, who handles the AVP account with two colleagues in the firm's New York office, began a year in advance laying the groundwork for the Olympics long-lead effort - highlighted by a four-page People spread featuring Walsh, May, and the six other US players.

"Sometimes stories are cultivated slowly," Leddy told me. "I had my first conversation with People in August 2003, and followed up every three weeks or so. We did the first of two photo shoots in March. The writer spoke to each player several times during the spring and early summer. When the piece ran last month, it was so satisfying because we wanted to do something special to send them off to Athens. "

Now capitalizing on the post-Olympic buzz, Leddy procured a slate of player interviews the previous week at a Chicago tournament, and several more here in Vegas.

"Media interest in Kerri and Misty is obviously high, and we want to utilize that to draw attention to the tour and the sport," Leddy said. "But [we] also want to steer the press to some of our other great players. We want some of that gold to rub off on the entire AVP."

The bond Leddy has developed with the players clearly pays off, giving her the clout to summon them early to the court for interviews and photo-ops, even though some are still shaking off the night before. She teases them into action.

"You gotta jump start these guys," she grins, pulling one of players over for a TV interview.

AVP serves the show, the players bring the heat, Leddy delivers the ink.

Bump, set, spike...

Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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