While this new year has just begun, it already feels like a sprint. Not just from the renewed energy of our current clients, but as demonstrated by the significant increase in prospective client inquiries that we’ve already received this year.
Why is this year different? Significant change is imminent.
2021 initially might feel like a continuation of 2020, but the ending will be far different. I’m not just talking politically, but as it relates to the pandemic and ultimately the economy. The general public can finally see a potential end to the pandemic once enough vaccines are administered. Businesses are seeing it too.
But this year, it’s like everyone is on the same compressed schedule to make up for time lost due to the pandemic, forcing many companies to work harder to ensure they’re at the front of the pack when potential customers cross the pandemic finish line.
Thinking about this finish line, I can’t help but think about how a company’s PR strategy correlates to a race day strategy.
Back to high school when I ran track, my primary race was the 400 (one quarter of a mile) or one full loop around the track. I was decent at it. My freshman year, my best time was 55 seconds, good enough to earn a spot at regionals. My coach tried me in some other races like the 100, but I didn’t have a great start out of the blocks so my times were never great. He tried me at the mile, and while I started strong, I would fade to the back of the pack as the race went on.
My success at the 400 wasn’t based on technique or skill. Ultimately it came down to one thing: I always ran the race as a flat-out sprint. I wasn’t the fastest out of the block, but I was by far the fastest in the middle of the race building up a lead. By the end, I was running out of gas trying desperately to hold on to the lead that I had built. This often led to my getting passed at the end by a closing competitor who had saved some energy for their sprint to the finish.
It’s okay to sprint the entire way from start to finish, it is a valid strategy for some cicumstances. But if you want to win the race, the strategy is done before you ever step foot on the track. It means before the race even begins you need to know what length of race you need to enter to make sure you end up in the right spot at the right time. Otherwise, you risk of running out of gas as you to watch your competitors run right by you into the arms of your potential customers.
It’s why you see a lot more in-race strategy occurring in longer races. The goal isn’t having your personal fastest time across the finish line, it’s simply about crossing the finish line first. It’s why you often see a clump of runners in a pack despite everyone having a different strategy. The goal is about trying to force the competitors to react the way you desire to advance your strategy to win. The runners with a fast last leg sprint try to stay with the pack and keep the pace slow until the end knowing they can outrun the rest. The runners less known for their sprint abilities may try to push the pace faster early in hopes of leaving others so tired or far behind they have nothing left at the end and can’t catch up before the race ends.
Which brings us back to today’s race to the pandemic finish line. Current predictions are that sometime later this year, we’ll pass a threshold where enough people have been vaccinated and it becomes safe to start gathering in groups again, going back to the office or booking travel plans.
As a business, you need to think about this race route from start to finish and how a public relations strategy can help you come out ahead. Along that route, you need to place different potential “PR story” flags along the way. Maybe the best strategy is placing the flags equal distances apart and simply sprinting as fast as you can through all of them to reach the finish line before anyone else. Or, maybe your strategy is to start off slower and clump more of the flags towards the end to ensure you’re at your top speed as you reach the finish line.
As a PR firm, my team excels at developing a plan, planting flags and implementing the strategy. If you need help, let us know. We’re already wearing our running shoes and are ready to go.
— written by Josh Weiss