Monday, January 14, 2013

Lessons from a Rookie's Father

It’s not common that a typical sports story yields a life lesson for its readers, regardless of their interest in athletics.  To be sure, we have all seen our share of coaches who give motivational speeches for business.  Many are stock speeches.

But over the weekend, the not so likely source for some words of inspiration I heard came from the Seattle Seahawks’ rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.  The young man is a team PR person’s dream.

He’s a well-spoken, highly polished, extremely athletic and smart, NFL quarterback.  All of this is sure to lead him to be a top gainer in commercial endorsements in the coming years.  But to whom might he owe his inevitable success?  Let’s start with his parents, Harrison and Tammy, and more particularly for the purposes of this column, his father.

His father, Harrison, a Dartmouth alum, was a lawyer until his death in 2010.  Russell’s mother is a nurse consultant.   

We all know that our parents shape us in ways that cannot be measured, but it’s clear when you see Russell Wilson face the press that his preparation goes well beyond a day-and-a-half media training session.

He’s always polite, confident and positive.  He’s reverent to his questioners, no matter how off-base the question and he stays very focused.   He frequently credits his father for his approach to football and life, and he’s not beyond quoting his dad.

That’s why something he said in a media interview caught my attention.  He said his dad always preached “the three Ps.”  These are: perseverance; perspective and purpose.

Perseverance in this context means to never give up, regardless of the challenges you face, be they real or perceived.  Perspective is to always maintain a sense of context, an even keel where you have the proper sense of the situations you face.  And then purpose, where you have the best possible understanding of your own role. Sometimes that role is a leadership one, where you must step up to the challenge.  And other times your role is in support of someone else or some larger organization or cause.

When it comes to PR, I think the three Ps make perfect sense. 

We all need to know that the first press release, speech or campaign may not be enough.  You have to make a real commitment to ensure you connect with your targeted publics.  Through it all, you have to make sure you have the proper perspective. Sometimes PR or better communication simply may not be enough to solve the problem. Sometimes, the solution lies in an operational approach, a legal approach or a sales and marketing approach.  And that brings us to purpose. Good communication may always be an important ingredient, but oftentimes, it’s best as a support element of the larger initiative.  Other times, such as in certain crisis situations, communications must take the lead.

Football fans or not, I sense that the more people get to know this impressive young man, they’ll like what they see.

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