At first blush, a locker room and a corporate conference room may seem like a dramatic clash of cultures. But if we look beyond the superficially obvious, several key lessons emerge that, if embraced, can produce winning PR programs.
Here are four memorable quotes from the sports world to inspire public relations professionals.
1. “It starts with complete command of the fundamentals.”
– Jesse Owens
From agility training to endurance drills, athletes are trained to master the most basic elements of their sport. They are reminded that winning requires strengthening their core physical skills through discipline. An unwavering command of the fundamentals is just as important for PR program success.
As communications professionals become seasoned, some adopt a more removed, consultant-like approach, giving little thought to the vital role of fundamental tactics. A communication plan might be genius, but without the ability to execute, it is destined to fail. After all, tactics such as pitching, writing, and managing media inquiries serve as the building blocks for a successful program.
2. “Nobody wants to follow someone who doesn’t know where he is going.”
– Joe Namath
Locker room leaders are often defined by an ability to set their team on a path to victory. They engender dedication to a game plan that, if followed, will result in success. PR program success also requires a guiding star.
Is a particular PR program intended to increase awareness, fortify a reputation, or provide brand differentiation? If the strategies and tactics are properly executed, what do we hope to achieve? PR programs should offer a powerful vision, as well as turn-by-turn directions on how to realize success.
3. “The best defense is a good offense.”
– Vince Lombardi
In football, there is often a rivalry between a team’s offense and defense that must always be kept in balance, because winning teams realize that the offense and defense are inseparable. PR programs should be developed with this in mind, too.
As in the athletic context, an offensive communications program is the best antidote for a crisis. Too often, crisis plans are prepared in isolation of an organization’s proactive communication efforts. Then companies wonder why they’re unable to deliver a positive narrative from a defensive and reactive posture. A proactive approach serves as an effective inoculator and enables a brand to define itself before others do. Absent a proactive and reactive balance, a program’s effectiveness is severely limited.
4. “All a prevent defense does is prevent you from winning.”
– John Madden
In theory, the “prevent defense” is designed to stop long touchdown passes by concentrating defensive personnel downfield. This preventative posture generally allows the team on offense to advance the ball, with the hope that any gains will be small.
In practice, however, this “play it safe” approach often backfires, as the offense takes control, steadily marches downfield, and easily exploits gaping holes left open by the defense. Similarly, passive PR programs needlessly put brands at significant risk when they do not account for how quickly reputational fortunes can change.
Communication programs must never rest on past successes, and should evolve to ensure relevancy. PR programs must continually generate fresh ideas that deliver thoughtful, innovative, and insightful perspectives.
Mike Riley is a communications professional at Stanton Public Relations and Marketing. A version of this post first appeared on Conversations with Stanton.