As a competitive tennis player for most of my life, I often reference success on the court to success as a PR professional—another endeavor in which I have been involved for decades. The basic rules of tennis—be ready, prepare for your shots, and have your eye on the ball—apply to public relations. Here are tips for thinking like a tennis player to get the most out of your PR and content marketing programs, whether working with an agency like Look Left Marketing or running an internal team.
Rally with Your PR Team
Having worked in agencies for my PR career, I can confidently say that PR is a participatory sport. Winner vs. loser aside, each side must hit the ball back and abide by the rules of the game for it to be a meaningful and productive match. Similarly, in PR, when the agency and the client are in sync, collaborate on projects, and help each other identify opportunities, both players can deliver their best work. When partnering with tech companies, this rally includes out-of-the-box ideas to get noticed. If a client hits a ball over the net about a product announcement, I return it with an idea for a thought leadership piece. They send it back with an idea for a client video, and I volley with an idea for a social media campaign with partner videos. Rallying with your PR team means building on each other's momentum.
Plan, Pivot, and Be Resilient
Every match can be unpredictable, but I try to have some semblance of a game plan in place. I try to do some research or ask someone who might know the player to get insight that can help give me an advantage. If not, I rely on tidbits I pick up during the match warm-up and stay aware of adjustments along the way. Take pitching the media, for example. If I want to catch a certain reporter’s attention for a story, I plan my approach before sending the email. If my first pitch doesn’t land, I either try another tactic with that reporter or move on to someone else. As a PR professional, hearing “no” from the media is like being down in a set. I get it. There are many PR people converging on the same reporter. But just like working my way back from a deficit, hearing “no” isn’t an invitation to give up, but rather the platform for trying new, different and creative strategies.
Maintain Your PR Fitness
Every good player knows that tennis is a work in progress—so is PR. The industry has significantly evolved since I started in the mid-’90s, and it’s important to maintain PR fitness. Social media, podcasts, and SEO weren’t even a thing when I started, and now they’re an essential part of an integrated PR strategy. This is where marketing collaboration is critical for success, as the two are tightly intertwined. Every day, there’s something new to learn, like what Google's Helpful Content Update means for a B2B content strategy. Content has become such a big part of any marketing and PR plan. If you don’t continually sharpen your skills—in sports or in business—you’ll lose your competitive edge.
In tennis and PR, you have a game plan, but at the same time, you must make split-second tactical decisions at any point during the match. In both disciplines, maintaining goals for what success looks like is important. Not everything is going to work every time; you’re not going to win every point and/or see every pitch get accepted. But if you’re ready to adjust and refocus, you’ll also fulfill the most important factor—learn from the past to improve in the future.