PR Pros or Football Pros, the Playbook is the Same





Jami BakerFrom the vintage Bert Jones posters lining our walls to our CEO Tadd Schwartz’s words of wisdom, football plays a big role in our office.  As a PR pro, I’m always seeking ways to communicate better and inspire those on my team, and  football provides plenty of analogies, from the players and the coaches to the fans. At Schwartz Media we apply these lessons to our public relations practice as well.

Additionally, the football industry can take a page out of our PR playbook! From the field to the PR war room — these are the top tips we take away from our favorite teams:

Practice is essential.  Every athlete practices before a big game and the same goes for public relations practitioners. Reviewing a pitch or proposal before a phone call, important meeting or interview is key to success.  The same goes for our clients when we prepare them for a phone call with a member of the media.

Check the tape. Teams meet every week to review video for the previous game.  What worked?  What didn’t work?  Did someone get sacked? If your pitch or your marketing initiative falls flat, go back to your team and review it.  A good brainstorm session can fix almost anything.

Enact a game plan.  Teams often develop specialized game plans tailored to their opponents. In PR it’s essential that you have a specific strategy to reach your key audiences.

Be on the offensive.  If you only play a defensive game, it’s impossible to win.  The same goes for public relations.  If you aren’t coming up with new story lines, pitching ideas and strategizing how to get your clients into the next big story, you aren’t winning.

Precision is often better than speed. Being precise is essential in football, whether it’s a quarterback’s pass or a receiver running a route.  Slow down!  It’s always better to make sure you do it right instead of speed right through.  From a tweet to an email, take your time to think through and check for careless mistakes.  It is important, especially since errors in public relations are often documented and difficult to forget.

Stay hungry. Coaches are challenged with keeping their players motivated and the same goes with public relations professionals.  Every day we come into the office ready to move the needle for our client.  It’s important to remember while you may have of landed the New York Times yesterday, clients want to know what you are doing for them today. Always look for how you can do more, stay creative and then nothing will stand between you and your touchdown!

On the other side of the field, we think football teams will see our PR guidelines will save them a fumble:

Strategy is everything. Firms establish goals they wish to accomplish and then develop a plan of action for their clients.  This plan outlines how they will effectively put their message in front of key target audiences. Football teams need to do the same — each player has a reason to be on that field and a clear plan in mind of their role in executing the play.  Games don’t just win themselves — coaches and players need to collaborate to develop an effective strategy.

Be aware of any action your opponent may take. PR firms must constantly be cognizant of not only their competitors in the field but also the competitor of their clients.  This is imperative to stay one step ahead of the game. Football players need to assess their competition throughout the league not just who they’re currently up against.  Teams who understand their opponents best will most often win the game. Competition feeds the beast.

Learn to effectively work together as a team. Firms must work collectively amongst their teams to get the job done. Everything from brainstorming, pitching, marketing and content creating is a team effort.  The most successful firms understand that their strength lies in their team. Football players must remember this if they wish to succeed on the field. Playing the sport is a collective effort. It’s important to note there’s no “I” in team.

No guts, no glory. In the PR world, taking risks can have a big payoff. Pitching reporters whom you’ve never worked with before or taking the lead on an initiative for a client can seem scary at first but can yield the greatest rewards.  The public relations industry requires creative thinking. This means successful PR pros must be willing to think outside the box in order to get the job done.  Similarly in football, if you don’t throw the “Hail Mary,” you might not win the game.

Identify and understand your targets. This is something PR pros do all day —when we pitch stories, approach new business, attend networking events and also send out marketing materials, we tailor the message. In football, it’s crucial players identify exactly who and what they’re up against, as well as what their immediate goals and plan of action are in order to win the game. On the field, you have to focus on what’s in front of you for a successful game.

Learn to develop a thick skin. The life of a public relations executive is full of rejection.  Those in the industry know to roll with the punches as they come. This is a valuable lesson to carry to the football field as well — coaches and players will undoubtedly make errors and lose games, but the ones who let their defeats strengthen them will be the ones who rise above and leave their legacy behind.

One more tip we have to add for PR and football pros alike: always celebrate your victories.  That is the law whether you are watching football or working at Schwartz Media.  Cheers!

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Jami Baker is Account Director at Schwartz Media Strategies.