Why (and how) communicators should have a ‘spring training’

Let’s take some time to limber up, reintroduce ourselves to teammates, and refocus on comms fundamentals.

Comms spring training

Though many of us are still shivering in heavy coats and scraping ice off windshields, baseball is back.

Even non-fans must admit there’s something warm, alluring, comforting and nostalgic about spring training’s sharp cracks of the bat and ball-thumped mitts. As Chicago Cubs icon Ernie Banks said: “Spring training means flowers, people coming outdoors, sunshine, optimism and baseball. Spring training is a time to think about being young again.”

Spring training is about much more than baseball itself. It’s a time for players and coaches to spend a month refreshing relationships and reviewing fundamentals—and easing back into the rhythm and routine of the notoriously grueling 162-game season. Young players get a chance to shine; old hands mostly just stretch, eat sunflower seeds and refresh muscle memory; and the game scores mean absolutely nothing. Think of a monthlong corporate “team-building” exercise.

Wouldn’t it be something if communicators tried something similar? You might not talk your boss into a month’s worth of “exhibition games” or exercises, but you might try spinning your own “spring training for communicators.” Consider these four ideas:

Scrutinize your roster and resources. Spring training gives managers ample time to analyze their team’s strengths and deficiencies. Are there any hot-hitting rookies who look ready for the big time? Does the pitching staff stink? Should the starting third base job go to the heavy-hitting guy with no glove, or to the defensive whiz who struggles at the plate?

When’s the last time you took stock of your team’s performance—including an honest assessment of where you can improve? Spring is the perfect time to review strategies, analyze workloads and revisit who’s doing what. It’s a great time for a comms audit and to delete musty social media takes. Take stock of what resources you have on hand—and be ready to show management what holes or gaps need filling.

Practice pitching (and catching). Even if media relations isn’t your beat, every type of communicator should practice the art of persuading people and pitching ideas.

One key to improving your pitching is to become a better catcher—of ideas, that is. The more you listen, absorb and focus on other people’s preferences, hopes, passions and pet peeves, the better “pitcher” you’ll become.

Just like the big leaguers, you won’t get far without an immense amount of practice and preparation. So actively pitch ideas to become a more persuasive, influential and respected person in your clubhouse.

Simulate games. Pitchers who are rehabbing an injury often inch back by throwing “simulated games,” which is just hurling to hitters without umpires or fielders. It’s not “live-game” action per se, but it’s helpful prep for the real deal.

Communicators should also prep for pressure-packed moments by consistently conducting crisis simulations. You wouldn’t thrust a rusty, unprepared pitcher into a nerve-jangling World Series game, so why would you entrust your company’s reputation to an ill-equipped, untrained communicator?

It takes time, resources and commitment, but the more crisis scenarios you can envision and enact, the cooler and more effective you’ll be when the organization comes under fire.

Don’t forget to stretch! Remember to peel your fanny off the bench multiple times throughout the day. Get up, move around, and keep those legs loose. Last thing you want to do is pull a hamstring on your way to the coffee machine.

Also, stretch your mind. Learn a new skill, or volunteer for something you typically take a pass on (such as a speaking engagement). Limber minds and muscles pave the way for heroic workplace home runs.

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