Take a quick look at the news and within the week you’ll probably find a famous athlete who has fallen into stardom quicksand and needs a public relations pro to get him or her out. It seems like a fairly common occurrence—athlete gets in trouble, PR professional does damage control and reputation management. But in contrast to that relationship, what positive attributes do athletes and public relations consultants have in common?
After spending four years as an athlete at Auburn University on the equestrian team, I have several observations. Being a student-athlete was a strenuous task requiring balance of both academics and athletics. This experience ingrained four qualities in me that have helped with my budding career as a public relations practitioner with Cookerly.
- Routine. During college, my routine is what got me through the day. My weekdays consisted of the same schedule, with slight variations: wake up, workout, go to class, go to practice, meet with tutors and study hall, then finally off to bed. Rinse and repeat, and there was my week. From an outsider’s perspective this may sound like a boring four years, but it led to success because I adjusted to a particular schedule. Now, as a PR professional, I follow a new routine—whether it’s the routine of researching, brainstorming, drafting and editing, or my own personal style of pitching and follow-up. I have a routine and I stick to it.
- Teamwork. I know, I know…this is such a cliché. What is it they say—teamwork makes a dream work? I did attain a few dreams during my college years, but on a serious note—I learned how to work well with a team and more importantly, communicate with a team. From freshman year being “led,” but also having a voice, to senior year serving as a more assertive leader, I learned to communicate my messages appropriately and effectively with others in different roles. In the PR world this is an important quality because you are interacting with a number of different people: colleagues, reporters, clients—the list goes on. Learning how to communicate and work with each of them is an important component to be successful in PR.
- Prioritizing. Simply put—what’s most important? Something that sounds so easy yet can be so difficult. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words, “you are a student first, athlete second” and prioritizing based off this phrase. Respecting deadlines and doing things in a timely manner is an important quality for both college athletes and public relations. I may have a page long to-do list for different clients, but knowing what my timeline is for each is critical.
- Results-oriented. With all the hard work put into practice, you want to win when it comes to show time. Coaches want you to win and you obviously want to win. You know the countless hours spent becoming a better athlete and you don’t want to come up short. PR is the same way. Days are spent putting in the work for your clients and you want spectacular results. What’s the point of pitching a release or story for your client if you never land a strong hit in the media to propel their business? Good athletes and public relations professionals have the same mentality – they want their work to be meaningful and purposeful and they won’t stop working until they achieve tremendous results.
I’m grateful for my years spent on a team that taught me routine, teamwork and how to prioritize, and because of that, outstanding results were achieved by my team and me. While some say college is the best time of your life, as an athlete I’ll argue it’s the best time and most rewarding—at least so far. I learned four qualities for a strong foundation that makes me a better teammate with Cookerly.
Peyton Smith is an assistant account executive at Cookerly PR.
Photo credit: Claire Connaghan