InsightsPOSTED September 30, 2015

How PR is like boxing

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Earlier this year I took part in a boxing tournament called The Brawl on Bay St.  Naturally, there was lots to learn about commitment and perseverance when situations get tough (it was bloody). But that’s not what I plan on discussing.

What I learned from my fight was how to develop a strategy and how to manage the situation when it all starts to fall apart.

In both boxing and PR, you need to have an attack plan. Even with all the experience in the world, one does not simply step into the ring. Likewise in PR, one does not start pitching without considering how to best deliver results.

Before you begin, you need to study the situation. Do research on what challenges you face, identify areas where you think you can win and determine the assets in your arsenal to rock the competition. Your arsenal in both ventures is especially critical for success.

When I started sparring I had a natural affinity for power punches (300 lbs bench bro, you even lift?). But what I quickly learned is that while the old one-two punch was great off the start, my sparring partners quickly rallied and learned to defend.

All of a sudden my greatest strength made me one dimensional and predictable. I needed to expand my arsenal, develop devastating combos, build a strong defense and learn to trap my opponents so I could leverage my strengths properly.

The same can be said about a solid PR plan. You may be great at proactive pitches, but it can’t be your only move because at some point people will get bored of them. You may love working with celebrity spokespeople, but using them too frequently will burn your budget as fast as throwing a few heavy right hands.

Overall, everything in your arsenal needs to build off one another. Properly executed, each tactic will set up another, effortlessly flowing from one to the next, allowing each to be far more effective and devastating.

Finally after much preparation and consideration, in both worlds one must…


That last part is a stretch but you get the point.

I was ready to execute going into the fight, but once the bell rang it all changed. My strategy going in was to play defense, let my opponent come in and then strike.

It unfortunately did not go that way.

Up against a more seasoned fighter, I had my nose broken in the first 30 seconds. With my nose three sizes too big and blood pouring down my face, ‘the plan’ clearly wasn’t going the way I anticipated. I had two options, give up and risk my reputation as a man (come on son!) or keep going and be agile enough to find another approach. Once again, there was a similarity in boxing and PR.

Giving up when things get rough in PR is NEVER an option, your reputation is everything and giving up proves to everyone that you don’t have what it takes to do great work – a career or business TKO.

In PR when the plan goes haywire, you need to pull some other tactics from your arsenal and readjust (told you it was important).

So I changed my tactics in round two. Instead of playing defense, tiring my opponent out and striking during an opening, I played my strengths and went on the offensive. I threw the old one-two, followed with a hook and an uppercut along with any other combo my strength could muster and before I knew it, my opponent was on the ropes. With his bell rung and the tempo changed, I was able to go back to my original plan and then press when I was in trouble – I took the third round as my prize.

Although I lost by decision (still uncertain how I lost round two, #soreloser) what I learned from the fight is that developing a good strategy can mean life or TKO. Everyone, in every sector, goes through a challenging ‘fight.’ In all cases, a campaign, organization or fighter is only as strong as their strategy. You can plan ahead and live to fight another day no matter the outcome, or you can wing it and forever lose your chance at glory.

While I may have lost the fight, with the cheers from the crowd and free drinks from strangers, it didn’t feel like a loss. Following the fight I was told people wanted to see me fight again. I made a few new contacts for work. And I even got a girl’s number.

While you can’t always win, if you work hard and are armed with a great strategy the truth is…

You will never really lose.

Jon Koidis is a consultant at APEX who enjoys boxing and bourbon outside of the office. Follow Jon @koidis55.

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