Marathon & Public Relations: 5 Surprising Synergies

​This Monday, 29,000 runners (including yours truly) will make the 26.2 mile trek from Hopkinton to Copley Square in the 117th Boston Marathon. Most runners despise the week before a marathon because as the mileage decreases and the free time increases, we find ourselves anxiously over-thinking everything. Did I log enough miles? Did I do enough cross-training? What exactly will I eat the night before the big day? In my free time this week, I've been thinking about the similarities between training for a marathon and public relations. Here's what I've come up with:

  1. Always prepare for a crisis. Part of the mystique of running a marathon (and in my opinion why it's such a great accomplishment) is that there are so many variables and unpredictable situations that can make the run more challenging. You have to be prepared for any crisis. Last year, for example, New England's unpredictable weather surprised runners with a nearly 90-degree heat wave on Marathon Monday. With a scorcher forecasted three-days out, runners all over Boston prepared by stocking up on water, and the smart ones adjusted strategies, expectations and goals. In PR, almost every crisis can be predicted and many disasters averted through smart crisis planning and issues management.
  2. There's no single recipe for success. I get a lot of questions from friends and family members about running. What type of shoes should I wear? How many miles should I run a week? What's the best way to train? The truth is there's not one right answer for everyone and it always depends on the individual. Just like we don't recommend every PR strategy to every client, the best approach emerges after assessing individual needs and goals, and developing plans accordingly.
  3. You have to be smart and nimble. Training for a marathon takes a lot of time, so getting those miles in often requires strategic thinking and the ability to adapt. For me, that means embracing my busy work and life schedule and strategically planning to fit in those runs. I opt to listen to NPR rather than music when I run so I can get my news consumption and running done simultaneously. And often instead of hopping on the MBTA to get home, I pack running gear and let my feet take me home. (Ironically, it's only a bit longer commute than the T!) This applies to actually finishing the race too. The saying that running is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical is 100 percent true! In PR, strategic planning and flexibility are necessary to support clients in today's competitive, fast-paced world.
  4. Learn from your mistakes. Scan any running magazine or message board and you'll see terrifying stories of marathon mishaps: mid-race port-o-potty fiascos caused by an unfamiliar pre-race food, unforgettable chafing from wearing a new shirt, or simply starting out too fast and not having enough gas in the tank to finish. We all make mistakes, but it's those mistakes that make us smarter. Few marathon runners will make the same running mistakes twice. As a growing PR practitioner, I'm willing to admit the first draft isn't always perfect-but working with colleagues and clients to perfect the angle or idea not only produces an excellent final result, it also helps me learn.
  5. It takes intelligence, personality and heart. A famous running coach advises marathoners to "Divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart." PR is really the same. It takes a thoughtful, strategic and smart plan, creative personalities to bring fresh ideas, and a doggedness to pursue goals to carry out success.

Written by Senior Account Executive Kate Plourd (Editor's Note: You can cheer our own @Katemplourd on Monday!)

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We provide senior counsel in complex sectors, including healthcare, education, housing and real estate. We leverage our experience in traditional and digital media, government relations and crisis management to support legacy organizations and those that are on the rise.