Three weeks ago, I ran my third marathon. My first was London in 2016, followed by Paris last year. After running for almost 15 years simply to stay fit and clear my head, I felt it was time to push my limits and see how far and how fast I could go.
I knew training for a marathon would be hard, tiring and time-consuming but what I didn’t realise is how much it would teach me about working in B2B tech PR. Here are a few things I learned from going the extra mile:
You get out what you put in
When you wait on the starting line of a race, you either trained or you didn’t. You can’t lie about it. If you have not trained for three months and logged the necessary miles per week, you’re going to feel it. You’ll end up walking the last few miles (if not earlier), feeling disappointed by your performance.
Such is the way it is in PR. If you don’t do your homework and prepare for a regular call, a press release to pitch or whatever it might be, it will show – in the feedback you receive from the client or the coverage you secure (if you do).
Following a marathon training plan requires commitment, rigor and dedication so does a new biz pitch, client meeting or campaign. You need to be willing to do the work that needs to be done to make it successful.
You can push harder than you think
When I started talking about running my first marathon, my family, friends and colleagues told me I was crazy. This made me question whether or not I could do it. But as I increased my mileage, week after week, month after month, I started to build my confidence. I’m not going to lie, not every run was a pleasure, especially these 18 mile-long runs in 20+ degrees but by pushing myself a little bit out of my comfort zone, I knew I had the ability to complete 26.2 miles.
Pitching a story is the same. As my colleague Elvina mentioned in her lunch & learn session last week, we’ve all had to pitch in our PR life a product announcement (that is actually just a 3.0 version with an additional feature or something) for which our clients expected to make a big splash with. Uh-huh… The reality is, it is harder to get the media interested in these announcements. But it doesn’t mean you should give up before you’ve started. These releases are often the ones you can learn the most from because they make you push harder, think harder and find different ways and angles to get the coverage your clients want. So next time you get a story like this to pitch, give it everything you can, and you will see, getting a piece of coverage in a trade publication will feel like it is CNBC! And your client will love you for it.
Playing the long game is the best way to succeed
When training for a marathon, you need to commit in mind, body and spirit. You need to sacrifice the time spent with your family and friends, your evenings and your weekends. Ultra-runner Jax Mariash calls it the “can’t stop, won’t stop” mentality. It is hard and long, but after weeks, that patience and tenacity pay off.
In PR, we regularly get tasked by our clients to secure coverage in the nationals or business media. It is easier said than done. But what I often see is people dropping it after the first attempt. The journalist didn’t reply to your pitch or said they were not interested when you called her or him? Don’t give up! Try different angles, pitch at different times, read her or his articles. At some point, your determination will be rewarded.
Teamwork is key
I wouldn’t have been able to complete my marathons without the support of my friends, family or colleagues. Whether it was words of encouragement, my other half pushing me out of bed or getting treats (thanks Alex for all the brownies passed under the table), it helped. Teamwork is as important when training for a race as it is in PR. You won’t make a campaign a success alone. Take everybody on the journey with you.
Enjoy the ride
I’m not Eliud Kipchoge but I’m not the slowest runner either. I like the competition and overtaking runners feels good but what I learned is taking the time to enjoy the miles is important too. What’s the point of running a marathon if you don’t remember it?
What’s the point of developing a campaign if you don’t remember what was good about it? In PR, we often focus on getting the job done and forget to enjoy the journey. Try to do both!
Bumps in the road are part of the journey
Whilst training for my first and second marathons, I got injured. Same injury, and at the same time before the race. The only thing I could do is rest. Despite missing a few days of training, I managed to finish both races, but it got me thinking about setbacks. Life is not perfect, roadblocks are part of it. However, what’s important is not what’s going to happen, if you are going to get injured or not, but how you react to it. Before starting my training for Vienna and then Berlin, I spent a few hours on a Sunday looking back at my previous training plans (mileage, type of runs, time etc) and analysed where it went wrong. And you know what? It worked. I’ve been injury-free for months now and it is just down to changing a few things.
With PR, it is similar. Be flexible and adapt. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself if a story didn’t go down well with the media, sit down with your team and try to understand why. Analyse what you’ve done (or not done) and what you could have done better so you know for next time. Was the angle strong enough? Did you target the right journalists? Did you allow enough time for pitching? A successful media relations campaign might just be a few tweaks away, you just need to dedicate the time to find what they should be.
When I talk about the marathons I’ve got on my radar, my family, friends and colleagues still tell me I’m crazy. But this time, I’ve got an answer. It is the difficulty of running a marathon and the subsequent feeling of accomplishment when crossing the finish line that keeps me coming back for more. The same applies to PR. Some campaigns are painful and drain you but can you remember the sense of achievement you felt when the coverage started to appear? Yes, this.
Want some more? Lace-up your shoes, it’s time to catch the bug.