Tuesday, June 9, 2009
PR & tennis: Advantage, you
There’s a million analogies out there. We’ve heard social media and PR compared to everything. So...I’m going to add to that list! This came to me at an odd time, but I thought to myself - PR is a lot like tennis. Before you scoff at this comparison, let me explain a little.
Tennis is a game that requires touch. It’s about positioning yourself and putting yourself in the right spot. Novice tennis players tend to come in and think it’s about hitting the ball hard, and as a result, often hit the ball long. The more you play, the more you realize it’s not about hitting the ball the hardest - it’s about putting top spin on the ball and hitting at angles.
PR is the same. It’s not about jumping right into things. It’s not about having a big budget and going for the home run. Successful PR pros realize that it’s often the little things that find the most success. A lot of folks come into PR and all they want to do is work on the biggest brand and come up with cute and comical campaigns. PR is about doing the small things to make your brand successful. It’s about coming up with unique angles to pitch, it’s about humanizing your product and interacting with your community.
Tennis is a game of thinking one shot ahead. Good tennis players aren’t thinking about the current shot - they’re thinking 2 or 3 shots ahead. They study their opponent, make him or her work, and it’s the third or fourth shot that scores the point.
PR isn’t about what you’re doing right now. PR is about what you’re going to be doing a week from now, a month from now, next year. Strategic planning requires the ability to understand how your current efforts are going to compliment your future efforts. Results aren’t going to be immediate, so be patient and persistent.
It’s not necessarily easier to play doubles. Just because there are two players on one team, it’s not necessarily easier. Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi are two of the best tennis players to ever swing the racket, but that doesn’t mean they’d be a great team. A successful doubles team requires communication and the understanding of each others skills.
An effective PR team requires different skill sets. One person may be good at media relations, one may be good at copywriting. If your team is full of people who are only good at one part of PR, you aren’t going to be an effective team. PR also requires the ability to communicate. Like tennis, if both players are scrambling to each shot, eventually you’re going to run into each other. Assign tasks and hold each team member accountable for their assigned duty. No one wants to work with someone who thinks they need to hit every shot. At the same time, not everyone is meant to be part of a team and some work better by themselves. It doesn’t make that person a better or worse PR person. Know and understand what your talents.
Tennis is often an overlooked sport. Let’s be honest, you don’t see a lot of kids wanting to become professional tennis players. You don’t get a pickup game of tennis going with your buddies. You don’t spend a Friday night attending your local high school tennis match. You’re not dropping $300 on tickets to a tennis match - unless it’s a major tournament.
Businesses often overlook the importance of having a talented PR staff. Our budgets are usually the first to get cut - although that trend is starting to reverse itself. How many times have you been the last to find out about something critical to your company? Like tennis, the general public (those who don’t play) have a big misconception about PR. They don’t understand its value until a crises occurs.
Like tennis, PR will never be the glamour profession that young kids dream of studying and practicing. But that’s alright. PR isn’t rocket science, but it’s a profession that’s vital to a company’s success. Tennis may never be a mainstream sport (at least in the United States). Again, that’s alright. Just remember, PR isn’t about hitting the ball the hardest. It’s about starting and maintaining a steady volley with your audience.
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