Three PR Lessons Learned from the FIFA World Cup


As the FIFA World Cup unfolds in Brazil, fans from around the globe are witnessing the thrill of winning, the disappointment of losing and the drive and dedication that landed each team in the running to compete in the world’s most anticipated sports competition.  Here are some key takeaways for PR professionals from the sport that experiences it all.

Lesson number one: The clock doesn’t stop, but you should

In a day’s work, the typical PR professional experiences a lot of what a soccer pro does: a full array of emotions ranging from severe angst to exhilarating self-fulfillment, not to mention a race against the clock. Often the hours in the day or days in the week seem insufficient for us to complete the work our clients expect of us. All the adrenaline is what makes what we do exciting, but it also makes it difficult for us to disconnect at the end of the day (smartphones and tablets, we’re looking at you).  Do the teams competing in the World Cup feel guilty leaving the field after their 90-minute game is finished? No, and neither should we, as long as we give it our all for eight hours a day. Taking a few “bench breaks” during the work day, disconnecting from email and taking time to focus on the things that make us happy outside the office help us avoid manic meltdowns and keep us in the game.

PR lesson number two: Dream big… even about the little things

Two nights before USA was to play Ghana in the group G match on June 16, Team USA defender John Brooks told teammates he dreamed he scored the winning goal, a header from a corner, in the 88th minute of the game.  Forty-eight hours later, to everyone’s surprise, the 21-year-old (who was not even expected to play in that day’s match) scored the goal that would made him America’s national hero: an eight-yard header, from the corner, in the 86th minute. In PR as well, we shouldn’t let the daily grind prevent us from dreaming big for our clients. No idea is too far-fetched, as long as it helps our clients engage better with the audiences that matter.  Not all clients can be coaxed out of their comfort zone or  are willing to take the risk on an idea that might not be a guaranteed win, but that does not mean we can’t try new approaches or leverage cutting-edge technologies to make everyday activities such as media relations and product launches more effective.

PR lesson number three: Take better aim

Italian player Claudio Marchisio’s 25-yard goal against England may have been one of the more memorable goals of this World Cup, but most players know that it’s easiest to score within short range. And the same holds true in PR. Sometimes even the best of us are guilty of bombarding journalists with news that may not be relevant to their outlets, or pitching news as if we are cold-calling.  To score on the media relations front, we have to aim better: get to know key journalists and what they are interested in, be selective and creative with our approach, show how our clients fit into the larger picture and create personalized pitches instead of mass-mailing the same news to hundreds of media.  We might miss the mark once or twice, but more of our shots will be scores and we will strengthen our PR playbook at the same time.