Top 5 ‘points’ PR Pros can learn from March Madness

Ashley Waters

For college basketball fans, it’s officially their favorite time of year…their Christmas…their reason for watching NCAA games all season. It’s finally March Madness. While many PAN employees are Orange alumnus cheering for Syracuse to take the title, there is one thing we can all agree on: there are key learnings we can glean from March Madness as PR professionals. 

march_madess_college_basketball.jpg
Source: Andy used under CC license.

So, without further ado, here are the top five lessons everybody in PR can learn from March Madness:

  1. Never Discount The Underdog

This year, 22 percent of brackets submitted chose Michigan State to win the national title, and almost 40 percent of registered brackets had them in the Final Four. The first round matchup between Michigan State and Middle Tennessee State proved the favorite isn’t always the winner.

Same goes in PR. For example, when a smaller client is breaking into media, find the angle that meets business goals rather than just trying to get their voice heard in media where there are a lot of big players already making a splash. Find the “white space” – the area that isn’t being discussed yet that they can speak to and it won’t matter that they aren’t as big or well known as the other guys. Finding the angle or topic that isn’t being covered yet and make it their specialty – because the underdog can, and does, come out on top.

  1. Study, Study, Study

Doing your homework is vital to every team’s success. Understanding your opponents, knowing their strengths and weaknesses, and developing a plan to defeat them is paramount to winning. In the world of PR, you need to have an intimate knowledge of your clients, their competitors and the media. Understand the media so you can pitch them on their specific interests will make it much more likely they will cover your client and develop a strong relationship with you. Get to know your clients so in depth that you can speak to anything on their behalf if you need to. You never know when you will be talking to an important reporter who wants to know more!

  1. There Is No “I” In Team

There is nothing more important than teamwork when it comes to winning championships. Star players can get injured or have a bad day, but a team that works together will see consistent success, both in basketball and PR. Everyone on the team should know their role and responsibilities, from the Account Coordinator to the VP, so they can help each other up and pick up the slack when a team member is out sick, dealing with another client situation, or is simply unavailable. Michael Jordan said it best, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”

  1. Develop A (Flexible) Game Plan

Every team needs a game plan that highlights their strengths and targets the opponent’s weaknesses. But there are times when the plan simply isn’t working, and teams need to be able to adjust. The best PR pros don’t just push through and hope for the best; they pivot. So while it’s important to put time into planning, be aware of the results and flexible enough to change tactics on the fly. Improvising can be your “Hack-a-Shaq” on the court with the media. 

  1. Communication Is Key

The best teams are the ones that communicate constantly. In basketball and PR, communication is key to success and cited as one of the most requested skills for companies looking to hire new employees. In PR it’s not just about communicating within your team, but also with the media. Stay in touch to show you follow what they write – even when you don’t have a new announcement to make. And communicate your big wins! Championship teams aren’t afraid to brag; a little showboating gets fans excited and shows you’re proud of your accomplishments. In PR, you should be shouting your client’s award wins, speaking engagements and exciting new hires from the rooftops – or at least from your social media channels.

As we enter the Sweet Sixteen, March Madness is at a fever pitch. And in between that in-office score-checking on the sly, don’t forget the lessons you can take from the teams battling it out on the court and apply them to your role as a PR professional.

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