5 PR Lessons Learned from the 2015 Slam Dunk Championship

This week's #5Things is a slam dunk...

AS15_NewYorkCityWhile most of America enjoyed TNT’s glamour-and-glitz coverage of the 2015 NBA All-Star Weekend for the skills competition, three-point shootout, and the crown jewel slam-dunk championships, there was something else going on for the PR lover in all of us.

Once Zach LaVine threw down that last jam, people scattered like roaches. This got us thinking: what’s the value of such an event in an era when we live and die by the 24-hour news cycle?

Let’s see if we can connect the dots with this week’s #5Things: 5 PR lessons learned from the 2015 Slam Dunk Championship.

1. The “Who?!?!” Factor.

NoSeriouslyWhoIsThatHardcore local fans aside, who had even heard of these contestants? Most of their introductions began with something like “You don’t know me now, but you will.”

Much like the famous drunk who screams “do you know who I am?” while taking a breathalyzer, these guys aren’t as cool as they think they think they are. PR campaigns are like that, too: only that brand gets to step out on the floor without a proper backstory, and we need to invest time in informing our audiences before we can really inspire them.

Those who tackle education upfront are less likely to be left poking their own empty thought bubbles two weeks after a project fails to garner the response they wanted.

2. Been There, Done That.

been-there-done-thatCount the number of times you’ve said, “Never seen that one before.” Pretty low number, isn’t it?

Most dunk challenges are full of moves that weren’t new two generations ago: the unoriginality leads audiences to yawn while the judges scowl and the rest of us reach for the DVR remote.

The same principle holds true for pitches: how many times do you spend a couple of hours writing a tour de force for a national reporter only to hear nothing but crickets in return? Like basketball fans, the journalist has seen this move a dozen times before — and unless the drive is unique enough to notice, the only slam dunk going down will be a graphic of that email entering the reporter’s trash can.

3. Walking in Someone’s Shadow.

shadowsIrving. Wilkins. Carter. Howard. Richardson. That Jordan fellow. Those are the kings of the Slam Dunk Championships.

Upcoming stars owe a heavy debt to those who came before them (and did it better), and this fact is no less true in PR than in basketball.

This year’s contenders will always be compared to last year’s greats. And in each PR organization, there’s inevitably someone who does it better — whether “it” means creating relationships with journalists, making great pitches, managing clients, or perfecting the occasional (well-disguised) suck-up. No matter who you are or where you’re working, you’ll always be under someone’s shadow.

Embracing that reality is half the battle…the other half is growing into it.

4. Stunts, Stunts, and More Stunts.

greenpeace stuntYaaaaawn! Everyone’s trying to reinvent the wheel, but no one wants to watch the process on live TV.

So it is in PR: how often do we have to go back to the drawing board because the client isn’t impressed by our latest efforts or needs to bring his/her expectations closer to what we call “reality?”

Many lean on Old Faithful, a flashy one-time “stunt” promising easy headlines and even easier social media reach. Here’s the problem: in PR, as in basketball, many stunts lead to “should have settled for a classic dunk” regrets.

Yes, you need to be original and take a little risk. But you also need to get the ball in the basket.

5. One Move Makes Many Headlines.

Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

Did you see Olapido’s sick 540-ish dunk or LaVine’s ridiculous “Space Jam” and behind-the-back throw downs? These three dunks led all media coverage of the event.

In PR, if you have the right move — a calculated strategy that creates too many headlines to count — then you will be able to breathe easy…but only for a while.

You practice, you perform, you pray a little, and if all three of those factors align, you produce.

Afterward, you’re a rock star for a hot second…but then it’s back to the daily grind. Athletes can’t rest on their laurels after one Sports Illustrated cover, and neither can PR pros: we all have to strive for more or we will end up providing less for those who matter most.

But it you work hard enough for long enough, you MIGHT be able to throw it down like this…