5 lessons for PR pros from March Madness

Many fans will gather to fill out their brackets and cheer for their basketball teams as they vie for the NCAA championship title. Here’s how communication efforts mirror the action on the court.

It’s almost time for Sunday Selection, when 68 basketball teams will match up to compete for the NCAA Men’s Division I National Championship title.

It’s where stars emerge and take center court—as well as where the small guys face the giants to see how good they really are.

With this sacred college-basketball tournament comes the March Madness bracket challenge. Everyone has their own way of filling out brackets—from picking the highest seeds to picking your favorite team and upsets in hopes they’ll find great luck to advance to the next round.

As players prepare for the upcoming tournament, and fans get their brackets situated, PR professionals can learn a few strategies from the “Big Dance”:

1. Do your homework.

Just like coaches prepare scouting reports of their opponents, PR practitioners must do their homework to develop an overall strategy for success.

Take time to research your clients—and competitors—along with potential issues that they might face.

2. Play as a team.

It’s hard to execute a coach’s strategy successfully if players aren’t on the same page about defensive matchups or which offensive sets they’re running.

Likewise, everyone on a PR team, including clients, should understand the goals and objectives of a campaign. Each must know their assignments so that messages are consistent and efforts are not duplicated.

3. Plan for upsets.

March Madness would be disappointing without the Cinderella team that ruins everyone’s bracket. If a certain play or lineup isn’t working, the coach has the ability to change things up at any time.

The same is true for PR tactics and strategy. A communications roadmap is essential to keep your eye on the prize, but it should be a living document that provides guidance—not a list of edicts that are set in stone. Your plans can (and should) be adjusted if new circumstances arise.

4. Two lay-ups are still better than one three-point shot.

Players are often tempted to go after more difficult three-pointers to more quickly raise the number on the scoreboard.

It’s also easy—and tempting—to go for the big splash in PR. It’s exciting, but it can be hard to sustain over the length of a campaign. Pace yourself to ensure that the momentum continues after the initial launch.

5. Stay hungry.

UCLA has won more NCAA Men’s Division I National Championship titles than any other team, but it’s still their goal each year to come out on top.

Whether a basketball player or PR practitioner, we have to continually stay motivated and passionate about what we do, communicate openly with our teams and take risks to advance and succeed.

Like March Madness, there’s not one sure way to make it to the final round, but with preparation, adjustments and motivation, your PR team can create their own Cinderella story.

Diane Hurd is the senior associate managing director at Inspire PR Group (@InspirePRGroup), a public relations and digital agency based in Columbus, Ohio. A version of the story originally appeared on the agency’s blog.

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Topics: PR

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