5 Things PR Firms Can Learn from the New England Patriots

By Scott Signore

It’s NFL playoff time, and the New England Patriots are again looking like league leaders. With a weekend win over Indianapolis, our boys are packing their bags and preparing for what will surely be a tough test when they play the Broncos this coming weekend.

The recent performance of the Patriots reminds me a lot of the results generated by the top-notch public relations and social media professionals on staff here at Matter, and the Pats’ season overall reminds me about our business in general. Here are five things that PR firms can learn from my much beloved New England Patriots:

First, you need players who can adapt and can apply a variety of their skills to immediate needs. Julian Edelman is catching Tom Brady passes like a lifelong wide receiver, but he converted to that position when he entered the league a few years ago. He adapted to his situation and excels.

And, so many members of the Pats’ defensive line have played varying positions over the season since Vince Wilfork went down with his injury. Ditto for Jerod Mayo and Rob Gronkowski and a range of others. Similarly, a solid PR team is still able to thrive when one professional can apply his or her skills to key situations as needed, seamlessly.

Second, you need to be able to fail quickly and rebound strong. In football, that’s after a loss – please see the Pats’ Monday night game against Carolina as an example and their subsequent string of victories. In PR, we’re battling for business on a daily basis and a devastating loss needs to be followed by an aggressive and creative approach toward other opportunities still on the table. You need to move forward, because successful teams don’t understand any other direction.

Third, like Tom Brady’s reaction to a poorly thrown football that is intercepted by the defensive secondary, you need to “get over it” and move on quickly. Things happen, on the football field and as part of a communications team, and you learn from your mistakes and apply them to the above-mentioned process of moving forward. It doesn’t benefit anyone involved to dwell. Having a short-term perspective is valuable and critical for making improvements, but getting hung-up on the details is counter-productive. Go out there, make a play and change the direction of the game. It’s so similar to moving past any PR hiccups and securing the media homerun that changes the vibe for the better on an account team. Leaders don’t dwell on mistakes – they lead.

Fourth, you need to find a way to win. The challenge matters little when it comes to this point, but rather it’s about the mindset. Your people and their corresponding skillsets are in place, and you need to be resourceful and find a way to get the “W”. That’s a quality you want in a team sport, because you know your crew will go with gusto each and every time they take the field. That’s the same quality you want in your PR team: no matter the obstacles, you will overcome them. Find a way to get it done – we use that language here at Matter, and clearly Bill Belichick says something similar when he’s with his team.

Finally, it’s a team game and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Every Pats’ win this season has been the result of contributions from everyone on the team. LeGarrette Blount may have had a tremendous playoff game on Saturday, but he’s shared the backfield responsibilities all season long. Similarly, Tom Brady has been spreading his passes around to a collection of no less than eight receivers since the start of the season. These players have contributed to the Patriots winning football games, and that’s what matters most. The win is what counts, and not the individual highlights. Similarly, winning a high-profile piece of new business or extending a long-term client is worth celebrating, and the individual contributions that make that happen are a second priority. As I’ve been saying for years now, it’s the results that matter.

What else can PR firms learn from the New England Patriots, or sports in general?