Baseball is back! So many of us look forward to the start of the season because it signifies warmer weather, family fun, fan optimism, and – being a former professional baseball player in the Dodgers and Rockies organizations - I just love the game.
Often I tell my friends, colleagues, and family that so many facets of America’s Pastime reflect the themes of other businesses and organizations, including the public relations industry.
In honor of opening week, I’m swinging for the fences, drawing the parallels between baseball and PR.
1.) Pitching - In baseball, the success of a baseball team starts with their pitching staff. A talented pitcher has the ability to take control of a game and win it for his team. Failure to pitch well in baseball hurts your team's ability to win a game and the unlikelihood that you’ll be handed the rock again in a similar situation. In PR, media pitching is usually a core competency to any campaign. The failure to effectively pitch your client's messages inevitably leads to clients looking for somebody else to put on the mound.
2.) Statistics - In the movie Moneyball, Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, uses an unusual but successful method of acquiring players based on their cost and production. Like baseball, in PR it’s hard to argue the numbers. The most successful PR campaigns are centered around measurable objectives. “So often a marketing person comes to a PR person and asks them for a campaign that creates buzz,” a PR person recently told me. What exactly is buzz? How is it measured? Instead of asking for buzz, why not ask for a specific demographic, or minimum impression numbers, or target specific markets?
3.) Making the Roster - Climbing the ladder to the big leagues is a tough chore for any aspiring ball player (trust me I know). The road is bumpy and competition fierce. Earning your roster spot takes an unprecedented commitment to go beyond your limits. Proving yourself in an agency requires the same focus and drive to become that go-to franchise player. While getting the call up to the “show” doesn’t come easy, once you’ve earned that spot you can’t take it for granted. It always requires consistent performance to avoid reassignment or, worse, getting cut.
4.) Managerial Decision-Making - Managers are paid well because they help steer the ship in the right direction and they are responsible for making difficult decisions. Without effective leadership to see big-picture strategy, winning statistically becomes less likely. More so than delegating tasks, the best managers know their players’ strengths and weaknesses. And they know where to place their players in certain situations. A good handle on your team and strategy increases the likelihood for winning.
5.) The Grind - The baseball season is a test of durability and perseverance. A daily agenda that includes plane/bus trips, 2 hours of working out, 3 hours of batting practice, on field conditioning and drills, and then you still have 3-4 hours of game! Eat, Sleep, Repeat! On top of this, when the season is over you begin a vigorous off-season conditioning program to stay in the best shape possible so that your roster spot isn’t taken by a younger, stronger version of you that was just drafted. There’s no shortage of stops in PR, either. As PR professionals, we have one eye in the present moment and the other eye looking to the next move. And we’re often doing that juggle simultaneously. It can get overwhelming and stressful, so professionalism is paramount.
6.) Defense Wins Championships - When a baseball team gets a lead, they do everything in their power to maintain it. The adage “defense wins championships” is more than just water cooler talk when associated with public relations. When a crisis arises or public relations teams are formulating ways to defend their brand, they have to know how to execute that defensive posture. The best defense may require teams to go on the offensive or it may require a conservative approach like intentionally walking a dangerous hitter to cut your losses and move on to a greater likelihood of success.
7.) Scouting and Recruitment - Baseball organizations pride themselves on building their farm systems to cultivate a crop of young talent that can one day contribute, provide depth or hit the jackpot and uncover a “franchise player”. Whatever role the organization sets for its scouting and recruitment purposes, agencies are similarly trying to acquire and nurture talent to help them achieve their goals. It’s important to invest time in the development of your own personnel while also searching for talent to bring in from the outside.
8.) Over-managing - June 14, 1974 Hall-of-Famer and then California Angels pitcher, Nolan Ryan, threw 235 pitches in 13-innings. That will never happen again. Today, pitchers are limited and monitored in an attempt to avoid injury and arm fatigue. Some say this is a sign of over-managing or becoming too protective. Others will argue, through research, that this is better for the team and for the individual. Wherever you fall in the debate, there are always decisions made by management that seem inappropriate or an attempt to control an uncontrollable situation. Managers should become mindful of how influential they are during the game just as PR execs should stop and make sure they are not inhibiting their team’s momentum.
9.) Individual Success Fosters Team Success - Baseball is a team sport driven by individual performances. Every player on a starting lineup has a defensive and an offensive role. Their individual efforts, collectively, contribute to team success. The same is true for PR professionals. Each person has their specialty and each person creatively and tactically completes projects and assignments for the team and for the company. Do your job and the rest takes care of itself.