Full-Court PR: Keeping the pressure on by attacking every channel

By Joe Meloni
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” Vivek Ranadivé, former TIBCO software CEO and current owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, discusses his introduction to basketball. Coaching his daughter’s team, Ranadive instituted a full-court press to force turnovers and generate more high-percentage shots for the team. The strategy led the team to a national championship game and sparked Ranadivé’s love of the sport.
Depending on whom you ask, the full-court press was invented in 1950 by Wichita State University head men’s basketball coach Gene Johnson. The concept has evolved since then, but the principle remains the same: pressure every opposition player and swarm the ball to essentially create a state of chaos on the court and force as many opponent mistakes as possible. Integrated PR and marketing requires a similar approach. There’s so much space and so many channels attracting the attention of clients’ target audiences. Maintaining a presence in each of them and covering as much ground as possible isn’t easy. At the heart of this approach, though, is staying proactive and agile, precisely the philosophy you need to succeed in Full-Court PR.
Being aggressive
The idea behind the full-court press may seem like chaos on the surface. There’s a method to it all, though. When you’re using a similar philosophy to drive PR campaigns and strategy, you need to understand each target, each channel as thoroughly as possible. Integrated PR and marketing, like an opponent on the court, move constantly. There are new features on social networks, new publications to target (that often look nothing like what we traditionally labeled “publications”) and new markets to enter. Covering them all takes a commitment to the goal and an understanding of the concept behind the strategy.
Covering your bases
Perhaps the most important concept built into the full-court press is the ability to pivot and support teammates. When the ball is nearly turned over or someone is struggling to guard his man, a teammate understands and helps out. The same needs to apply to PR. There’s no use in pressuring a channel if it results in targets getting away with ease. If, for example, a media relations program hasn’t landed the expected awareness, leveraging the expertise of a social media or content teammate to boost site or social content can drive traffic and thought leadership just as well.
Sticking with it
Most successful coaches are fond of comparing their favorite strategies to Novocaine – just give it some time; it always works. While this is true with Full-Court PR, too, it doesn’t mean there aren’t some adjustments. Basketball coaches will move defenders on and off different players if they’re struggling to finish the job. In PR, there are numerous channels available to help you achieve goals. If lead generation is the No. 1 goal and it’s not happening with media outreach or content strategy, pivoting to include analyst relations or customer PR might get you there more successfully.
When Ranadivé made the full-court press his team’s strategy, he transformed a group of unremarkable 12-year-old basketball players into a powerhouse. The full-court press has been the hallmark of successful basketball teams for decades. Nolan Richardson’s University of Arkansas team used it to win a national championship in 1994. Shaka Smart made little Virginia Commonwealth University a national power with his take on the strategy before moving on to the University of Texas. Integrated PR and marketing face a new industry landscape that requires the Full-Court press. Companies need a presence in a number of channels, and they need to understand all of them to get results and build influence.
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