What Ironman training teaches about public relations
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By Adam Russo

Earlier this year, I committed to competing in an Ironman triathlon. That’s a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run – 140.6 miles.  Anyone who’s trained for an Ironman understands the long nights and early mornings that make up the grueling training program.  The schedule is even more intense as I continue to build and manage my full-service public relations agency.  During the moments of clarity attained during long swim, bike, and run sessions, I’ve identified several parallels between long-distance triathlon training and effective public relations.   

 Start with research

Whether it’s exploring what kind of bike or wetsuit to buy or researching techniques to improve swim stroke, research is key to improving effectiveness and performance.  

Research is also fundamental in public relations.  Conducting research allows you to understand your audience and market.  And your research findings will allow you to develop sound communication strategies.  

Always start with secondary research and conduct additional primary research as necessary.

Planning is key

Balancing a career and a demanding Ironman training schedule can be daunting, but having a training plan in place is extremely helpful.  Taking time at the beginning of the week or month to plan your training sessions removes the daily guesswork of what discipline, style of workout, or distance you’re to complete each day.  

PR planning is also beneficial. Whether it’s a social media content strategy that outlines content buckets and frequency, or an annual media plan that identifies monthly media pitches, having a road map will keep you on track to maximize efficiency.  

Even with a well-thought-out plan, it is essential to be flexible and understand that things will come up both in training and in your communications efforts.  Give yourself the grace to modify the plan as timely items pop up.       


Execute, consistently 

Even the best plan is not effective if you don’t execute consistently.  As an athlete, it’s important to show up every day and give your best effort.  The only way to increase your speed and endurance is to put in the work, every day. 

The same is true for public relations.  Whether you’re building a social media following or positioning yourself in the market, consistent content is a key to effective communications.  

Commit to sharing daily content that provides your audience with value.  Two ways to add value is through educational or entertaining content.   

Measure, assess, adapt

Whether it’s reviewing pace or volume of sessions, collecting training data and making sense of it is critical to making gains when triathlon training. 

Public relations efforts should be measured and adjusted too.  Additionally, collecting data based on key performance indicators will determine the success of a campaign and provide insights into how to improve your next plan.  

In both Ironman training and public relations, measurable objectives or SMART goals are critical to understanding data and measuring success.  

Find your community 

Whether it’s a spouse, group of training buddies, or online community, finding a tribe is helpful on many levels when training for an Ironman.  These individuals are a source of accountability, inspiration, and support.   You can also ask them questions when researching something new.  

In public relations, your network is everything.  Your community is a great way to spark organic engagement and can also be a tremendous source of content and creative collaborations.  

Consider employees, vendors, sponsors, board members, volunteers, and other business partners when building your community.  

Ask for help

Leave your ego “at the door” and ask for help when you need it.  Whether you’re training for an Ironman or developing a public relations campaign, many people have done it before you and likely experienced the same pain points.  If you have a question, ask.  Other individual’s diverse perspectives and experiences are valuable.