By Erin Hartwig
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose
I am no stranger to adversity.
As a former student athlete, I’ve had my fair share of bad practices, bad weeks and even bad months. I’ve had broken bones, a bad back, tendon strains, shin splints and knee surgery. I’ve endured my fair share of crutches, braces and a less-than-glamorous walking boot.
So how is any of this related to PR?
It’s why I feel right at home working in the PR industry. The skills I acquired during my many years as an athlete set me up for success in the dynamic, fast-paced and sometimes stressful day-to-day environment working at an agency.
Strong Communication is Key
As an athlete, I’ve already had some pretty tough bosses and co-workers – in this case, my coaches and teammates. I learned to receive and provide feedback for the betterment of my individual training and for the team – all centered on developing clear expectations.
In PR, to say that communication is key is an understatement. Whether by phone or email, a PR pro is communicating with clients, the media and co-workers all in the same day. It’s about organizing deadlines and assignments, setting clearly defined goals and communicating your clients’ message. Clear communication is also important when giving specific directions, receiving constructive criticism and giving positive feedback.
Manage Your Time Well
Between school, practice, traveling, races, strength training, and trying to maintain the resemblance of a social life, I became a pretty good juggler (Not literally, I’m sure I’d drop everything). My days were planned out by the hour, so time management became second nature. I knew how much time I had available to study or complete a homework assignment, so I needed to maximize it. Ironically, I found myself least productive during the off-season because I had too much time on my hands.
PR, particularly agency life, pulls you in a hundred different directions, placing a demand on your time. It’s about prioritizing the tasks at hand and setting achievable deadlines. At the same time, it’s also being able to relinquish responsibility and delegate tasks and recognizing when it’s time to ask for help.
Being an athlete is all about setting goals, working towards them, achieving them and moving on to even bigger and better ones. A never-ending process that results in a relentless passion and work ethic.
In PR, I’ve always had my “eyes on the prize.” Gaining just ten Twitter followers for a client in a week has been a huge win, and so has landing stories in some top tier publications.
While an athlete’s competitive spirit and drive to win are desirable traits in potential employees, it’s also important to acknowledge it isn’t always when you’re standing in the winner’s circle that you discover your best self.
Agencies can go through tough times – they lose clients and they lose valuable staff members. Even account teams struggle through dry spells trying to land some coverage. Being a PR professional is knowing that a ‘no,’ is just one step closer to a ‘yes.’