Being in a fast-moving profession, you often have to ensure that you are staying on top of the latest trends, so my interest was caught by a new (to me) trend. The trend is called Fantasy Football, it’s likely you’ve heard of it. But to me, it was a totally foreign language. It is a simple game in theory; aim is to get the most points allotted according to the talent on your team, but underneath it is a web of rules and intricacies that mean you have to study the game for years to truly understand it, and you definitely need a good understanding of football to play this game. I do not have this. But, as any comms professional knows, sometimes you just have to dive in at the deep end and learn something new.
So, I arranged a team, and waited to see what happens. I am filled with suspense, waiting to see; I was told my team was a good team; I should fly through this game!… I was wrong. One week in and two of my guys were injured. I had lost points in my inability to keep up with the game. I turn to my informed mentors in this game and ask what do I do?!
One of my mentors gave me some insight that changed the game for me entirely. He had created a breakdown of all of the players on his team and their future fixtures and likelihood of point-scoring, which he used to determine who he would sub out and when he would do so. My other mentor reminded me; it’s about the long game. This game goes on for nine months, and we are right at the beginning. I might not be doing well now, but this team was picked as they will bring in the points.
I decided to take this game seriously. It was all fun and games picking names I just liked the sound of, but this wasn’t going to help me win. I found out it was actually important to know who I was working with and their attributes; I needed to do my research.
So, what does this all have to do with PR? Beyond the fact that it is in the enviable position of having over five million players as well as sponsors falling over themselves to get even slightly associated with the game and even having its own “fantasy football day” on the 8th August, it is a great example of the skillset needed for good PR.
I had never watched a game of football from start to finish, and my knowledge of football players doesn’t extend much beyond David Beckham, and sometimes this happens in PR. In this profession you need to understand fully what your clients do and be completely comfortable with the professional acronyms and language they use. Sometimes, especially when your client’s work is particularly niche, this means diving in at the deep end. You need to be able to sink your teeth into a subject matter, no matter how limited your knowledge is.
Lesson two; you cannot make calls that are essential to your success based on the names you like – you need to know the statistics and understand the players, just as you need to research stories and publications properly and implement your findings in order to prepare yourself for the long-term. The short-term is generally a lot easier to prepare for; it doesn’t require foresight or as much planning, but for the long-term, organisation is key – one must prepare for multiple outcomes.
This brings me on to my final lesson; you need to regularly review your information. Just as players come and go onto the pitch, news, laws and other factors affecting businesses are constantly changing. In PR, you need to be constantly up to date on all forms of current affairs (so looking past Brexit), and this sometimes means learning from unexpected sources.
I don’t know if I am going to win at my work league; given how much my colleagues follow the football, I don’t think I will, but I have learnt an awful lot from it, and who knows; maybe next year?