Growing up, I was active in team sports and there was nothing quite like it. I would run the gamut of emotions from the agony of losing to the elation of winning. I was dedicated to becoming a great player, working day and night to improve my skills. Today, I am a public relations professional who moonlights as a weekend warrior.
The thrill to compete has never left me and that made me wonder: How have my past experiences playing sports shaped the professional I am today? I realized that participating in team sports has taught me invaluable skills that I utilize daily in my career.
In any team sport, communication is fundamental. The Miami Heat do not win back-to-back NBA championships if they do not communicate well. Everyone needs to be on the same page whether it is calling out a pick, non-verbally sharing play signals with teammates, or even engaging in self-talk to help build confidence.
Communication is especially important in public relations. Every day, whether you are speaking with a client, reporter or colleague,communication must be clear. You must also be able to think on your feet if a conversation is not going smoothly in order to steer the discussion in the right direction.
Being a leader:
A successful PR agency has leaders who can provide direction and energize members of the team in the same way a sports team captain would. They need decision makers, someone who’s quick on their feet and always has the end goal in mind.
Sports have helped me develop several key leadership abilities. Enthusiasm, confidence and the ability to help define objectives in times of uncertainty are vital both on the court and in the office. In both settings, you must have patience and embrace the process, helping team members understand the value behind everything the team does as a whole.
A desire to win is vital for success in sports, but it’s also a great quality for those in PR, particularly in media relations.
I view the media as my competitor in a heavyweight fight. I am in a 12-round battle trying to convince them to cover my client’s story. Meanwhile, the media is swinging back proclaiming they can’t do it. It is when I succeed, landing that knockout blow by convincing them to run the story, that I feel a sense of accomplishment. I just won!
How to deal with failure:
In baseball you are considered successful if you go 3 for 10 when batting. That means you failed to reach base 7 out of 10 times. As a player I understood that I wasn’t always going to be successful. I learned to look at my failures as learning experiences and improve any area in which I failed.
Agencies may lose a client or we may be unable to place a story that seems newsworthy. Failure is to be expected. It is simply how you respond to those failures that make or break you as a public relations professional.
Are you a former athlete or have you participated in team sports all of your life? How have your athletic experiences help shape your communications career?
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