What public relations and soccer have in common

Believe it or not, working in an agency office can feel a lot like running up and down the pitch.

During my 4-month internship at The Hoffman Agency, I have come to realize that soccer and public relations bear some striking similarities.

As a soccer fan and player, every day at the agency was an eye opener to the industry, but at the same time it felt familiar.

Here are a few ways being in the office felt like running up and down the pitch:

Communication is key.

Communication is one of the most important aspects of soccer. Rarely is a soccer match silent. It’s always noisy, with players barking out instructions and motivating each other.

Communication is just as important in PR. It involves talking with your clients, your colleagues and journalists, to ensure that everyone knows what they’re doing. Like soccer, the PR industry is dynamic and ever-changing. Things can take an unexpected turn, like when your opponent changes tactics to counter yours. When this happens, it’s up to the players on the pitch to communicate with each other and ensure that team isn’t caught out by their opponent’s adjustment.

It is important to have leaders to guide the team – either vocal leaders like Roy Keane, or those who lead by example like Steven Gerrard. A captain, or in PR an account manager, is the person the team looks up to for support and guidance.

You’re nothing without your team.

As much as soccer requires skill and moments of individual brilliance, you can’t win games on your own. You require the support of the players around you and the coaching staff on the sidelines to succeed.

Working well together in teams is nothing new in the world of PR. Everyone has her own strengths, and the key to success is to use each person’s strengths to benefit the team. We work with clients that have different needs, much like how each team has their own tactics, so teamwork and quick thinking are a necessity for client management.

Delivering a successful PR campaign is like scoring a goal in soccer. The account director gathers the ball (client brief) for a kick, and plays it to his back four (client servicing team). They assess the situation on the field and gather more information before starting the attack (PR proposal). They pass the ball to the midfield players who retain possession (brainstorms, client and industry research etc.) and look for the best ways to score goals, before delivering the final pass to the attackers, who use their flair (pitches) to finish off the perfect goal.

You must have the will to succeed.

I heard a saying once that “champions are made when no one is watching.” If you really want something, you’ll work extra hard on your own time to achieve it. What drives someone to go that extra mile is passion.

It’s the same for soccer , PR and life in general. If you want something, you have to work hard for it. If you want to be a better soccer player, do some extra training on your own. If you want to be a better PR professional, read the news so you’re more aware of the world around you so you can offer strategic counsel to your clients. Good PR consultants have excellent newshound capabilities.

You must be aware of your opponents as well. PR consultants have to be able to gather all relevant information about their competitors to be one step ahead.

Expect the unexpected.

The old saying goes that the only thing anyone can know for sure in soccer is that “the ball is round and the game lasts 90 minutes.” Soccer is unpredictable. That’s what makes it so beautiful.

PR is widely known as one of the most stressful jobs. We deal with the unexpected all the time. Things can go from good to bad in a matter of seconds, and it’s up to us to be calm and think of ways to overcome problems. In crisis communications, it’s essential that the PR consultant handling the matter remain cool amid all the chaos.

Think creatively.

The ability to unlock defences with a single pass is a prized asset in the world of soccer. It’s an ability that you won’t find in many players.

Creativity is also a prized asset in the PR industry. The ability to think outside the box, and create something fresh is a highly prized asset. Always be one step ahead of your opposition and keep thinking of ideas and campaigns that will keep your client at the top of journalists’ minds.

Be persistent.

One thing I learned at The Hoffman Agency is that you have to keep plugging away. Most of the time, journalists might not be able to reply your emails due to their terribly busy work schedules, but you must keep following up with them, or maybe give them a call or two.

Similarly in soccer, persistence is key. For example, say you’re in the final minutes of a game and your team needs one more goal to win. Your opponent is not giving in. They’re parking the bus and just hoping for the best. What do you do? Stay calm, be mentally strong and look for the opportune moment to strike.

Jeffrey Lightfoot has represented Singapore in various regional youth soccer tournaments, with his soccer highlight so far being leading the Singapore U-15 boys to a bronze medal at the Youth Olympic Games in 2010. He is currently pursuing a Diploma in Media and Communication at Singapore Polytechnic.


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