What Circus and PR Have in Common

Erin Spencer

It’s been a running joke here at PAN, since the team learned about my colorful background as a circus performer, that I should write about what trapeze and public relations have in common.

I got a chance to reflect on the idea when attending Cirque de Soleil’s Amaluna show last Friday, and concluded that circus teaches how to be a better teammate, collaborator and constant communicator. Maybe it’s a stretch, but I’d argue that these basic skills are essential for both PR and circus, and must be applied to planning, execution, and evaluation, whether in the office or under the big top.

One of my contacts at Cirque was gracious enough to give us a backstage tour after the show, where performers were stretching and talking, recapping their night. I watched the action and recalled my own circus performance run-down. First, you practice with your team and try new approaches to improve the act. It’s a collaborative process, where coaches and team mates offer ideas and consider options; what’s risky? What’s a show-stopper? For a triple trapeze team I was a part of, my partner was great at thinking up tricks, and then I was the better at stylizing the moves and making them show-ready.

During the circus performance, there is constant communications (often non-verbal, or a simple “hup” yelled) in order to grasp, turn, and land at just the right time. Finally, the show is over. You think back on what could’ve gone better, why, and then start over again.

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This type of team collaboration is also a must for public relations accounts and one of the reasons why PAN is a cut above the rest. At PAN, PR teams regularly discuss their work, from brainstorm sessions to pitch angles to measurement and results. It’s a healthy work environment where we share for the greater good rather than knock our peers out of the way.

Especially if working toward a product launch or campaign, there is constant team communication at PAN in order to make sure the targets & messaging are spot-on, the coverage is secure, and that it lands at just the right time. Throughout the process, we might grab a co-worker with relevant experience, whether they’re an associate or vice president, and get new ideas. For example, when client Novell was launching a new product and the company president wanted to meet with media in San Francisco, our team was able to combine our own research with additional targets and suggestions from the rest of PAN’s PR staff in order to land a handful of briefings that resulted in top-tier coverage.

Team collaboration is easier said than done, but will result in a flawless performance. From trapeze to public relations, the more creative the act, the better – and you can’t get there alone.

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