PR Lessons from the MLB Playoffs

PR Lessons from the MLB Playoffs

We’re past the midway point of October and, more importantly, we’re past the midway point of the Major League Baseball playoffs. I’ve come to look forward to this fall tradition every year, and although my beloved Mets didn’t have the stuff to make a deep playoff run this year, the postseason still provides tremendous theater as well as some valuable lessons for PR professionals.

In the spirit of this blissful season, I’ve identified three key takeaways from this year’s MLB playoffs that serve as good lessons for PR pros:

1.  Don’t forget to swing for the fences. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Yet there’s a prevailing debate in the baseball world around whether teams should be built around home run-hitting prowess or their ability to play “small ball” – that is, to string together hits to produce runs. Most broadcasters seem to favor the latter, arguing that building a team around home runs doesn’t produce consistent scoring. But time and time again this postseason we’ve seen the opposite happen as teams continue to win game after game with the long ball.

In the PR world, we often minimize the home run in favor of small ball, settling for a continuous string of singles and doubles instead of swinging for the fences. And while steady coverage and targeting “low-hanging fruit” can be beneficial and even necessary, we shouldn’t undervalue the home run. Whether it’s a great media opportunity or just a creative pitch angle, we should always keep an eye out for an opportunity to knock one out of the park.

2.  Every position matters. Baseball, as much as any other sport, relies on specific skill sets complementing one another to form a unified whole and catapult the team toward success. The teams that win in the playoffs aren’t necessarily those that have the most talented players (though talent matters), but those that have just the right mix of talent at the right positions, every one of which is essential to helping the team win.

PR can function similarly. When building your team, consider the specific skill sets you’re drafting to make sure you have all your bases covered. Though cultivating well-rounded PR professionals should always be a goal, some team members will have innate skills that naturally complement one another –  whether it’s writing, pitching, a knack for organization and process, or a good eye for detail. The key is to stack your roster with the best combination of strengths for the task at hand.

3.  Combining youth and experience is a recipe for success. It used to be that the way to build a winning team in baseball was to spend heaps of money on high-priced, veteran talent and buy your way into the World Series. Now, the trend is heading in another direction. Teams have learned that building organically, through young, homegrown talent and adding in veteran expertise to guide that talent can reap huge rewards – possibly championship ones. The Chicago Cubs, this year’s odds-on favorite, provides a classic example of this, combining young superstars like Kris Bryant with older, more experienced pros like David Ross.

This is a great rule of thumb for building PR teams. The inclination among those of us who have been in the business a while can be to bemoan the lack of experience in our junior staff because they simply “don’t understand how we’ve always done it.” In reality, though, younger talent can be the ones driving the best and freshest ideas, pushing us outside of our comfort zones and evolving the agency to help compete in a changing landscape. The wisdom of senior professionals and the fresh ideas from junior talent are equally important, and agencies should look to maximize the contributions of both.

I’m sure there are plenty of other lessons to glean from the baseball playoffs, but these are good things to remember as we seek to continually provide the best possible talent and work for our clients. If there are others you can think of, shoot us a note and let us know. Otherwise, enjoy the rest of October, and go Indians!

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Posted By Mark Van Hook

A New Jersey transplant like everyone else in NC, Mark's precious little free time is usually spent hanging out with his wife and two boys. Otherwise, when not writing PR plans, he's watching old black-and-white movies, reading voraciously or lamenting the state of his beleaguered New York Mets.