What I learned about PR… in the gym

May 2, 2022

As a small business owner, you might find career inspiration and lessons in surprising places. That's true for me too. Whether it's in the gym, at yoga or while trying to learn a new language, there are often parallels with my work in the media. So, in today's blog post - for something a little different - I'm sharing a few things I learned about PR... in the gym!

You need to make the time for it if you want to see results

When I first started going to the gym, I'll be the first to admit it wasn't at the top of my priority list. I went to classes when I could but (all) other areas of my life came first. This could mean a week went by without going to the gym at all. Whoops! While that's totally normal, I had to accept I wouldn't see the results I wanted without putting in the work.

It's the same with PR. Creating a strategy, developing media materials and liaising with the media is time intensive. Spending an hour once and then ignoring it for months isn't going to get you great results. So, if you're serious about your organisation's PR, think about how much time you can realistically dedicate to it. Schedule that time into the diary and - this is important - don't skip it. If you really don't have time - which many sustainable business owners don't - but want the results, what can you do? Can someone in your team be responsible for PR? Can you hire someone? Or could you outsource specific projects if you can't commit to a regular investment?

...and those results might take time

After my first workout I didn't suddenly sprout abs and bulging biceps. Actually, I still haven't but we can't all be Arnie! Don't be disappointed if it takes time to get your first piece of press coverage. When you're first looking at your comms, you need to lay the groundwork first. Doing this well can take weeks or months. In the same vein, don't expect your first piece of coverage to spark an insane amount of sales or traffic to your site. If it does: amazing, well done! But if it doesn't, that's normal. Your comms activity is still an important piece of the wider puzzle.

Keep it sustainable

For me, sustainability isn't just important in the eco sense. It's also important to make sure your comms activity is sustainable for you to keep up over time. In the same way that smashing one day-long workout then never stepping into a gym again isn't going to do great things for your fitness, one huge comms planning session that you never act upon is pretty much pointless. Try not to bite off more than you can chew because you'll want someone in your organisation to invest regular snippets of time into PR and media work.

It's not glam behind the scenes

At the gym, I'm a sweaty, tomato-faced mess. The hope is that the results (#summerbod) will be worth it in the long run. I reckon it's the same with PR: the journey to great results is usually less-than-glamorous. I've always been bemused by the fact that people seem to think PR is a glam career. If you say you work in PR, people think of celebrities, red carpets, fantastic parties and general fabulousness. While I love my career in PR, the reality is a lot of hard graft. When I have made it to those parties, I've often been the girl all in black stading in the corner with the clipbord.

You will see benefits in other areas of your business

Getting into a regular gym routine has not only had the hoped for results of becoming physically fitter, healthier and stronger. But I've experienced other benefits too: my mental health is better when I'm active and I no longer get those dreaded 3pm slumps on the days I work out. Plus, the exercise gets my brain going and makes me more creative. I was actually half way through a round of burpees (yuck) when I suddenly had a rush of inspiration for this blog.

Similarly with PR, the focus is often on what press coverage you can generate. And yes that's an important output. But it's actually how this ties into the bigger picture that's more important. How is your press coverage raising awareness of your product, driving sales, encouraging behaviour change or influencing stakeholders? If you're generating coverage just for the sake of it and it's not doing anything, you might need to re look at your strategy.

You'll achieve things you never thought you could

The first time I went to a HIIT class, I had to laugh while the macho guys around me smashed out burpees for a solid minute. As if. But over time, I've been improving. Taking advice, listening to our instructor and learning techniques to build up strength and stamina. Today, I managed a set of (rubbish) burpees without feeling like I needed to be violently sick: something I genuinely didn't think was possible a year ago.

This is also true with your media relations. Don't self-sabotage and discount publications because "they'd never write about me." They might! A few months ago I hosted a PR Power Hour with a brilliant sustainable business owner starting out with her pr. She had a great company but was nervous of approaching the press and almost embarrassed of her goal of getting into the national papers. So you can imagine my delight when I saw her featured in the Telegraph a couple of months later. Absolutely smashing it!

You're doing better than you think

The other day, one of the PTs at the gym casually mentioned that my friend and I are advanced level and so gave us an extra hard session. I was taken aback. My huge, muscle bound, in-the-gym-every-day buddy? Sure. Me? When class kills me every dang time time... I'd definitely not describe myself as advanced. Or even particularly good! But, looking back at when I joined the gym post lockdown and puffed and sweated my way through class and often having to stop for breaks? OK, yeah I've come on a long way!

Why am I telling you this? Firstly, yes, I'm 100% bragging... someone who knows what they're talking about thinks I'm ADVANCED at the gym! But, seriously, this is true of your media relations too. We're all too hard on ourselves so cut out that imposter syndrome right now. You might feel like you're fudging through but look around. You might think you've got lots more to do but other people might be reading the latest article you were featured in thinking "Wow, I wish I could secure a piece like that!" Listen to them, not that little gremlin on your shoulder telling you you're not good enough.

Also, look at how far you've come. It might still feel tough sometimes (in the gym, I still sweat, ache and moan as much as I ever did!) but you're learning and improving even if it doesn't feel like it. I don't see a rejected or ignored pitch as a failure. I try to learn from it, pull up my socks and try again. Keep training your PR muscles and you'll do great things.

Don't wait until you're perfect to start...

See my point above about my fairly disastrous first class. If I'd not started because I wasn't as fit as I wanted to be, I would never have got as fit as I wanted to be. Everyone has to start somewhere. Don't worry if you're totally new to PR and don't have heaps of press coverage under your belt. If that's the reason you're putting off your media outreach, when will you start?

There's always more to do

Another mention for my super fit gym bunny friend. Even they have to keep working at it to maintain their level of fitness. And once they reach their goals, they find new ones. Same goes with your media profile. It is a commitment that you need to keep working at. Even if you smash that dream of appearing in Forbes, the Guardian or whatever your dream title is, it's not tools down once that article comes out. Your communications strategy will grow and evolve with your company. There is no perfect, I'm sorry to say. But that's what's so exciting about it!

Some things just won't be for you... and that's OK

I hate burpees. I will always hate burpees. In the same way that some elements of pr will never be things you will grow to love (maybe tolerate but not love). But, whether it's the strategy or copywriting side of things, luckily with pr you can outsource those elements. Sadly, I can't make someone else do my burpees!

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