Why the future could be bright for the little (PR) guys

A year ago, I made that so-called scary leap into going solo in the sports PR industry. Sure, it was hard. The hours were long, the work was uncertain and the doubts were plentiful. But truth be told, I’d expected that. I’d done my research, and knew what it was I was trying to create. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what the hurdles would be, but I certainly knew they’d be there.

One whirlwind year later, I’ve managed to build something I’m quite proud of; I’ve secured a solid client base and, even better yet, kept Colin the accountant happy(ish). 

Then this. A global pandemic. This wasn’t one of the hurdles I’d read about.

And then there was lockdown All of a sudden, much like everyone else in the same boat, my time is spent glued to daily government updates, and clinging to advice from Martin Lewis on what it means to be a small business owner.

‘It’s PR not ER’, that industry phrase we’ve all grown to hate, is finally relevant. We’re not on the frontline, and keeping a sense of perspective is undoubtedly important, but just like that, the niche I’ve carved in sport is now in jeopardy. It’s for good reason that large-scale events are being cancelled left right and centre, but how I react now matters. It’s my livelihood.

The strange and sudden standstill of lockdown life has brought with it a period of reflection. It has led some of us to reconnect with our inner yogi, and others (perhaps too many...) to pursue that pipe dream of starting a podcast. In my case, it has inevitably led me to evaluate my position as a small business owner.

Lesson from sport I’ve always turned to sport for my life lessons. From pride and dedication, to teamwork and the will to win, sport is built around key human values that we can all apply to our daily lives. Although, currently, it might feel like a distant memory of times gone by, these sporting values are more relevant now than ever before. In my position, competitiveness is crucial and, as cliché as it might sound, now is the time to fight, and not give up. To work out a way to win and to show the opposition that I won’t be beaten easily.

In this game, it might be easy to dismiss yourself against the big boys. The agencies with big clients, huge budgets and endless teams at their disposal. But times have changed. Perceived weakness turns to strength with the realisation that freelancers and sole directors can gain the upper hand. We’re free to challenge convention, flexible and able to dip in and out of projects, accustomed to adapting to new conditions, scalable and willing to work with small budgets and, ultimately, provide something many larger players can’t: efficiency. Not to mention we’re already very comfortable with working from home...

We’re the underdogs of the industry, often fighting in the shadows. 

However, if sport has shown us anything, it’s that you can’t write off the underdogs, and we’re entering into an era that seems to be levelling the playing fields. So while some of us might feel like Rocky Balboa up against the ropes, don’t bet against the little guys packing the punch.

If sporting analogies aren’t for you, I’ll finish with this one. Would you rather be on the Titanic, seeming to power invincibly through the waves, or on a dingy, able to move with the changing of the tides?

Written by Matt Williams, director of Keep Communications


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