Sunday, April 12, 2015

Baseball Provides a PR Lesson for Managing Expectations

According to weather reports, all looks good for the Pittsburgh Pirates' home opener against the Detroit Tigers at 1:35 p.m. on Monday, April 13, 2015.  Expect a sellout crowd and baseball fever to take hold, not only in the ballpark but throughout the city of Pittsburgh.  Black and gold will be everywhere along with the hopes of even casual baseball fans that the (2 & 4) Bucs are beginning that long campaign towards October baseball.

That alone is a nice thought.  If you’re a baseball fan, the notion of your team playing baseball in October is a fantastic expectation.  For decades, such a thought wasn’t realistic in Pittsburgh, but thanks to the past two years, it’s not only realistic but the Pirates players, coaches and their manager Clint Hurdle are leading the chargeif in a measured way.

And that, in a nutshell, is a lesson for PR.  Managing expectations.

A common stereotype of public relations and PR professionals is that we are given to exaggeration, perhaps creating unrealistic expectations. But the truth is PR has gotten very good at managing expectations.

Like the baseball manager whose stock phrases for reporters are such things as, “We play ‘em one game at a time,” or “Let’s focus on what we do and let the outcome take care of itself,” PR professionals often have to work to manage expectations towards realistic possibilities.

If a baseball manager doesn’t have the talent, he may describe this as a “building year.”  In the same way, a PR person whose company has faced its share of competitive challenges may help his CEO frame the situation as, “a time to restructure and reinvest for future growth.”

So, the lesson for PR professionals is that as excited as we can get at the outset of any project or campaign, we have to enter the process with realistic expectations, knowing the challenges that need to be addressed and overcome to assure the best possible result.

In Major League Baseball, that goal is the World Series.  In PR, it’s all about connecting with your key stakeholders to ensure that effective communication helps your organization achieves its goals.

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