Tackle PR Like a Franchise Player

Who, at one time or another, hasn’t fantasized about being a franchise sports star? You know, the QB who routinely threads the perfect touchdown pass to bring his team back; the shooting guard who drains the buzzer shot to seal the championship; the batter who turns a 1-2 fastball into a walk-off homer or, as we witnessed recently, the awesome – if not improbable – World Cup goalkeeping.

It really doesn’t matter what sport you love most (for the record, mine is football – and, yes, if I had the chance, I would play QB). The sports teams and stars we cheer for provide inspirational moments we replay over and over. Yet, when you look beyond its entertainment value, the world of sports provides terrific lessons to the workplace and public relations.

Throughout my career, I have regularly drawn on the different parallels between sports and the workplace (I’ll spare you on what I’ve learned as a NY Jets fan). I’m also a sucker for a great quote, so let’s take a moment to consider some of my favorites and how they translate from the field of sports to PR.


“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.”– Vince Lombardi

Resilience: There’s no sugarcoating the fact that public relations can be a high-pressure industry with highs and lows. You WILL have bad days – a reporter rejects your pitch, a crisis erupts on your business, you lose a piece of business. Rejection and adversity are part of the business, so how you fight through negative situations will go a long way in how you thrive and survive in the PR workplace. The key is to never get too high or too low about anything and always keep moving forward.


“The most valuable player is the one that makes the most players valuable.” – Peyton Manning

Leadership: One of the greatest misperceptions in business, is that leadership must be tied to a title. I’ve worked with junior professionals who were great leaders, while others with lofty titles weren’t. Honesty, accountability, courage, commitment, hustle and hard work are all leadership characteristics that don’t require a title. Yet, the hallmark of a great leader is the ability to adjust his or her style to the people they work with –they recognize team member strengths and weaknesses and put employees in the best position to succeed.


“I’ve never scored a goal in my life without getting a pass from someone else.” – Abby Wambach

Teamwork: It’s hard to top the satisfaction that comes from a shared team success. The most successful teams are those focused on a common goal – as well as each other. In public relations, nearly all successes are the result of teamwork (internally and with the client). The most brilliant ideas will fall short without a talented team working their magic together to bring it to life. That said, teamwork is sometimes easier said than done, as it requires everyone involved to trust each other to do his or her job – and deliver what is expected.


“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” – Michael Jordan

Initiative: Taking initiative – at any level – is critical to a successful career in public relations. Jumping on a breaking news opportunity after-hours, volunteering to take on a new business plan, or proactively sharing ideas are just a few examples of initiative in PR. Initiative is also thinking ahead and always being prepared with Plan B and C when Plan A doesn’t work out – because it will happen.


“A coach wouldn’t throw you to the wolves if he didn’t think you had some wolf in you.” – Bill Parcells

Confidence: At one point or another, everyone gets “the call” to take on something significant you have never done before – lead a new business pitch, manage a big assignment, or oversee a large practice or team. Instead of contemplating everything that could go wrong, embrace the opportunity and run with it. Your manager wouldn’t give you the opportunity if they didn’t have confidence you could do it – so have confidence in yourself and get it done!


“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” – Derek Jeter

Hustle: Public relations is full of incredibly smart, talented and creative people – everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.  While it’s natural to feel intimidated at times, nothing garners universal respect more than old-fashioned hard work and hustle. So don’t worry about being the “smartest” or “most creative” one in the room – work hard, always be prepared, and above all be yourself.


“Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.” – Pat Riley

Development: Finally, knowledge is power in public relations as the world of communications is constantly evolving. It’s important to be self-aware of your strengths and committed to developing your weaknesses. While webinars and industry conferences are great resources, nothing beats books, news (newspaper, television, radio) and social networks to keep track of industry trends and what people are talking about. Aim to start each day smarter than the one before.


In summary, you don’t have to look far to find inspirational messages and lessons within the field of sports that translate to the field of public relations. So, the next time you’re inspired by your favorite team or player, consider this – with the right attitude and approach you too can tackle PR like a franchise player.

Kelly Dencker
Kelly Dencker, Executive Vice President
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