It’s a marathon, not a sprint

A front row seat to the London Marathon has CC Content Manager Stuart Wood thinking about the benefits of taking the long way round.

Last week, the London Marathon went right past my kitchen. After a delay from its original April date, it went ahead at the start of October and saw the road outside my East London flat closed down for the afternoon.

I spent most of the day watching the live coverage on BBC One, while joining the applause and cheering people on from my kitchen doors, which open onto the road. Thousands of runners passed by, both elite and casual, and some had some pretty special costumes. One man running in a giant wobbly brain was more than a bit unnerving, and another with a bunch of heart-shaped balloons strapped to his back nearly took off when the wind picked up later in the day. He was forced to cling on to a railing while five others helped him wriggle out of his costume - I’m not ashamed to say it made my Sunday.

My flat was in the latter stages of the course, so I could clearly see just how difficult it was. By the time they reached me, a lot of the runners had grimaced expressions and a glazed over look in their eyes. The end wasn’t quite in sight, but they kept chugging along because they knew the payoff would be worth it in the end.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot this week - how the greatest rewards come in the long term rather than the short. And I think, if you’ll pardon my shamelessly transparent segway, that the same is true for PR.

It can be tempting, if you’ve just invested in a PR campaign, to want results right away. You have a message, or a new product, or an upcoming event. Surely all you need to do is shout about it and the masses will come flocking? The reality, though, is that you can’t buy good will. It takes time and repeated exposure for your brand to be associated with the tone of voice, the set of values or the particular audience that you’re trying to reach. Most of us have probably heard of the marketing ‘rule of seven’, which says that it takes an average of seven interactions with a brand before a purchase is made.

Much like training for a marathon, PR campaigns give out exactly as much as the client is willing to put in. They’re a collaborative effort from all involved, and the key is to focus on the end goal. Every article, every press release, every piece of content has to be moving in the same direction. The tone should match, and the language should be as uniform as possible. Even if they’ve been passed through many different hands, the ‘workshopping’ should be invisible and they should always sound as if they’ve come from one voice - your brand.

A practical way to do this can be to elect one or two people inside a company to be spokespersons for certain issues. Perhaps a client’s CEO can address issues in the business and publish thought leadership pieces, while the COO can address social issues that the company wants to take a stance on.

However you go about it, just remember - PR is a marathon, not a sprint. If you're in it for the long haul, you'll get the results you're looking for.