Offence vs. defence

Today is American Thanksgiving and in honour of our U.S. family, friends and clients, I thought I would use football to make my points today. We have TV sets in our AHA office and usually they are tuned in to news channels; today they will be on football.

What we do as communicators can be compared to football. In the sport, there is an offence and defence; we have proactive and reactive. Each person on the football team plays a key role in their success. Some show their abilities on the field (the players), others in the background (the coaches, trainers, front office staff).

In the world of communications and PR, we’re no different. We have a team (communicators, videographers, writers, media trainers, creative directors, graphic and online designers, etc.). The list goes on and on and we each have a role to play. In our AHA office, I tend to be the person people see most often. I participate in panels, give speeches, sit on committees, and attend conferences and workshops. However, we have a team – with people in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax – that bring it all together for our clients. Depending on the day, sometimes I feel like the quarterback. Other days I am the coach. And others still, I am a defensive linebacker and nothing is going to get past me, if I can help it. And, in our AHA office, these roles are interchangeable. It all depends on what is going on during that play.

With the opportunities that social media brings, we often encourage clients to become more proactive, to participate online, to build community, and to translate online connections into real world relationships through events and other opportunities. In using the football analogy, this is the offence; they are out there to move the fall forward and to score.

From a PR perspective, we also believe that organizations have a responsibility to contribute to their communities. We strongly believe in participating and providing value on a local and global level as a part of a smart communications and marketing strategy – and the right thing to do as people. In the world of football, there is a strong philanthropic and community connection. Players, teams and the NFL as a whole show strong leadership in this area.

In our world we often have to react quickly. In football, much of the reaction to the other team falls on the defence. However, having said that, sometimes the offensive play breaks down, the quarterback is in trouble and the entire offensive unit has to react quickly and adapt to the changing play. There are no guarantees that it is all going to happen like we planned.

In our world, we’ve all seen it – a positive, proactive campaign takes a turn that no one could see coming and you switch into damage control and reputation management. Sometimes it might be a call in error by the referee; other times it’s because someone in the stands starts throwing stuff onto the field. Or, of course, there is always that magical moment when we intercept the pass or recover a fumble and we get the ball back into our possession. It’s our job to respond.

Whether we are planning proactive campaigns and initiatives with clients or working with them to respond to opportunities or challenges, I think it’s important to work as a team – internally at AHA and with our clients.

On this day of American Thanksgiving, I am really thankful. I am thankful for the AHA crew, a team that, in my opinion, is unparalleled in the field of communications and for our clients, who make coming to work each day interesting, exciting, challenging and rewarding.

Happy (U.S.) Thanksgiving!

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