Tennis isn’t usually a big topic in the Slack channels at Calm, the mindfulness app valued at $2 billion. But when Naomi Osaka suddenly withdrew from the French Open on Memorial Day, citing her mental health, the volleys about her decision started flying. By the next morning, Calm’s global head of marketing and communications, Monica Austin, had convened folks from across the company’s marketing, PR, talent, and content teams to identify the brand’s potential role in the conversation—and evaluate the risk. Calm, which has worked with such celebrities as Matthew McConaughey and LeBron James but had no relationship with Osaka, had to decide whether it could insert itself into the heated debate regarding Osaka’s choice. Would prominent sportswriters and the likes of British pundit Piers Morgan pillory Calm as they had Osaka? Would even Osaka supporters find Calm’s participation crass?
Austin’s impromptu team quickly decided that Calm could jump in without feeling like an interloper—so long as it amplified its “mental health is health” message. The key was figuring out the right way to do it.
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