Pleasantly Persistent PR Blog
Good PR Professionals Are Like Olympians
August 3, 2021
It's that time that rolls around every four years when the world collectively watches humanity's greatest summer athletes and marvels at their feats. The dazzling performances, the winning against all odds, the fantastic upsets and the agonizing defeats. It's a show that's worth the four year wait.

Since many adults can't pull off a cartwheel or sprint 30 yards, it's safe to say that most of us can't physically model much of anything after an Olympian's performance. However, there is plenty we can mimic in terms of an Olympian's character, grit, determination and strategy.

In the spirit of this sensational international sporting event, this article will be about how good PR professionals are like Olympians. We'll look at four standouts from the Tokyo Olympics and how these athletes' traits parallel those of great book publicists.
Believe in Yourself like Katie Ledecky
Whether you are a PR professional or an author promoting your own book you must develop a genuine belief that you can achieve greatness. You've got to be like top athletes who envision success, playing out victorious performances in their minds to help those visions become reality.

Following her performance at this year's Games, Katie Ledecky has arguably cemented her place as her generation's greatest female swimmer. She notched four more medals, taking her total medal count to ten, including seven golds. If there is a key to what makes her a champion (besides her natural talent and work ethic), it can be summarized in this quote:
"I approach each race with the belief in myself that I can swim a best time, and that's pretty darn tough… It's what's served me well over the years, and why I've broken so many world records… but it's also a really hard attitude to maintain."
- Katie Ledecky
There are a couple points worth honing in on here.

1) The incredible will required to believe that anytime you compete you can accomplish a personal best.

2) The understanding that this can be a punishing attitude, one that becomes grueling over time.

So here's how I see parallels to book publicity: it's about cultivating a deep belief in yourself that is optimistically realistic.

Not every author is going to land on the New York Times' Bestseller List. But maybe selling 10,000 copies is an attainable goal, one that is like a gold medal for your book.

What about glowing reviews from other authors or subject specialists in your space that deliver the personal thrill akin to standing on an Olympic podium? Maybe these reviews aren't featured in national publications, but they are deeply satisfying coming from respected peers.
In short, be realistic about what would constitute a gold-medal win for your book publicity and believe that you can do it!
Commit to Strategy like Caeleb Dressel
Take a glance at Caeleb Dressel and you might guess from his size and apparent strength that he's an Olympian. But qualifying for the Olympics and medaling are two entirely different things, so what is that special something that sets athletes apart at the most elite levels?

You could argue that Dressel's commitment to strategy is his secret sauce. Dressel has an unmatched starting speed that gives him an advantage. Capitalizing on this strength in his approach to racing is largely why Dressel is making waves in the post-Phelps swimming world.

Dressel is also keen to identify any small advantage to incorporate into his racing strategy and sticking to it. For example, normally he does vertical leaps out of the pool, but prior to the Olympic races he was taking the stairs out of the water to conserve as much energy as possible. Sure it's just a minor tweak to his routine, but it could have been a reason, however small, that he stood on the podium so many times.

Dressel's commitment to strategy can be an example for PR professionals. I've seen firsthand publicity campaigns that seem great on paper, but fall short because they weren't consistently acted upon either due to lack of discipline or too many changing directives.
The point is to develop a well-thought out publicity strategy and follow through with it. It's okay to make changes like doubling down on campaign strengths, or shoring up on weaknesses, but these changes should be justified and add to an overall coherent strategy to win.
Pivot like Simone Biles
No athlete was more watched going into the Olympics and no bigger story has come out of the Games than Biles' withdrawal from competition. She was hailed as GOAT - the greatest of all time. Biles is truly peerless. No one can rival her abilities so much so that she has numerous skills named after her for which judges have had to create new scoring criteria.

So when Biles pulled out early in the competition the world was shocked. What could possibly have caused this? We all wanted to be dazzled by her.

As it turns out she developed something called the "twisties" whereby her brain and body no longer connected like they usually do. It's a phenomenon many athletes in other sports have experienced. Losing that mind-body awareness as say a golfer means you're in the rough more. Getting the twisties as a gymnast hurling yourself into the air can literally mean death.

Biles is a strong enough athlete to realize what happened to her and knew she couldn't safely go on. Fans were disappointed they were missing out on what might have been the greatest gymnastics performance of all time, but certainly nobody could have been more disappointed than Biles who spent decades in preparation for this moment, including undergoing an extra year of grueling training due to COVID.

While Biles won't be walking away with a handful of medals, her choice to back out opened up the opportunity for other American gymnastics to shine. Her decision also added to our evolving public conversation about mental health, helping to destigmatize it.
I believe the takeaway from Simone's Olympics journey is reading the writing on the wall - even if it is very disappointing - accepting it and pivoting to make the most of the situation.
Maybe your pitching tactics aren't working and you thought for sure they would land interviews on major networks. Maybe there was a sudden worldwide catastrophe like a pandemic that suddenly shifts the news landscape and nobody is interested in your book on gardening anymore. On a personal note, during COVID I couldn't offer my book tour service and pivoted to other services like campaign extension or additional outreach to journalists.

The point is to be like Simone and make the most of an unwelcome situation, turning what may seem like a loss into a win.
Be Persistent like Suni Lee
Last week Suni Lee clinched the gold all-around medal in gymnastics. Likely nobody, besides maybe Lee and her parents, thought this could happen. She was after all in Simone Biles' shadow.

But with the departure of Biles from the Games, an opportunity opened up for Lee and she seized it. Given this surprising turn of events, when the stakes are highest and you've trained your whole life for it, nerves could be enough to ruin the chance presented to you. Not for Lee.

Her stepping into the space opened up by Biles is amazing in and of itself. It's all the more amazing given her background, although maybe her family's story helps to explain her persistence and nerves of steel.

Lee is the daughter of Hmong refugees, an Asian minority that has faced generations of persecution. Her community and family's resilience and determination likely helped to form the backbone of a champion.
So what can we learn from Lee's surprise performance as book publicists?
Be persistent, never give up, and always follow-up.
You never know what turn of events can create an opportunity for you. While there is not a lot we can control in terms of how media contacts respond to our pitches, we can control how we approach our work.

My success as a book publicist can generally be attributed to my persistence, persistence, persistence. It's in the name of my business, afterall!

I'll never know the elation of giving a gold medal athletic performance, I do know how good PR professionals are like Olympians.

Need help publicizing a book?
Reach out to me - a PR professional with Olympian skills.
Feel free to contact me
Julia Brown
Book publicist
Phone: +1 619-888-7956
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