The Sweet Sciences: Boxing & Communications


This post was originally shared for McKinney & Associates’ blog and newsletter, where I was employed at the time. You can find it here.

Before I left Detroit for graduate school in Syracuse University I took the opportunity to work with a professional trainer for over a year. During that time I learned the sport of boxing, which is a great way to get in shape thanks to the levels of cardio involved.

Most people see boxing as a brute sport where opponents fight each other until the (sometimes bloody) end. But those who really follow and participate in the sport know the true level of strategy involved.

Similarly, communications is more than just the tactics you see carried out through social media, press releases and other forms of content. It also involves a strategy that helps you determine who your audience is and how best to attack (or reach) them.

Here are some ways you can consider boxing to be helpful for communications strategies:

  1. Preparation–Boxing is a sport that took me about 7-8 months to prepare for. It requires months of healthy eating, a routine of calisthenics, and practice of proper techniques. Meanwhile, communications campaigns also require preparation. After all, it’s important to ensure your team has the capacity to handle the work you’ve agreed to take on and the goals you’re looking to achieve.
  2. Scouting–In boxing, it’s important to take time out to get a scouting report on your opponent, whether by watching him/her against other people, or by getting “the scoop” from other trainers and observers. Similarly, communications efforts should have a clear idea of their audience’s preferences before they’re carried out.
  3. Defense–Whether you’re sparring or in an actual competition, most boxers are ill-advised against throwing a constant barrage of punches without considering how their opponent might attack. It’s the same concept in communications: if you go on the offensive all the time without anticipating your audience’s needs, they will likely grow weary of your message and you’ll lose out on opportunities.
  4. Stamina–Another drawback of throwing a constant barrage of punches is that it ultimately wears you down, making you vulnerable to attacks from your opponent. In communications, it’s also important to make sure your efforts are spread out through a timeline which is reasonable for you to execute and realistic for engaging your target audience.
  5. Reflection–In between boxing rounds and even after sessions or competitions, you have to take time to reflect on what you did right and what you did wrong in the ring. The same is true for communications efforts—high levels of activity are not enough to justify a campaigns success. Rather, emphasis should be placed on other measures, such as how many placements you’ve secured and how large their audiences extend.

Boxing isn’t just a great way to get in shape; it also helps you to consider communications strategies. Having a good balance of offense and defense is the same as having a good balance of listening and disseminating. Ultimately, the best way to be successful in either is to have a winning strategy.

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