A Bodybuilder's Guide to Communications StrategyBy Laura Petrolino

Life is the best teacher.

And this is why so many of my blog posts focus on the adventures, misadventures, and circumstances I face in life.

Life is where you learn to be human, and any communications strategy is about connecting with humans.

It just makes sense.

This also means most of you know about my tendency to injure myself with sharp objects, my love of unicorns and 80s rap, my ridiculously horrible inability to do laundry, and the fact at any given moment there is probably at least an 80 percent chance I’ll have no idea where my keys are (among other things).

Today’s post is about another very important part of my life (one many of you probably don’t know about), which directly relates to communications strategy development and success—body building.

Building a Communications Strategy

I compete in physique, which most people know as “bodybuilding.”

Anyone who follows me on Instagram, probably has some idea of this, but otherwise I’m pretty quiet about it online.

I also powerlift, but haven’t done a meet yet. My first one will be sometime this winter, whereas my next physique competition is coming up mid-October.

I’ve learned so many lessons through this sport about life in general, but today we look at five lessons building a body can teach us about building (and executing) a communications strategy.

It takes time to craft and implement a successful communications strategy. Not to mention focus, attention to details, and an ability to analyze many individual pieces in context of the organization and it’s goals.

This is exactly what you do in competitive bodybuilding.

The Most Effective Work is Not the Most Prestigious

Any communications pro knows that it’s not the one “ego” placement in the New York Times which makes a communications strategy, but the tireless day-to-day, behind-the-scenes work.

It’s the content creation, the social media outreach and community building, the smart and targeted earned media pitches and placements, the measurement and analysis—these are where success happens.

Likewise in physique sports, while your time on stage is important, it’s not where a champion is made.

Instead it’s in the day-to-day grind.

The extremely non-glamourous work in the gym, the calloused hands, the constant attention to nutrition and fueling your body as it needs to be to successful, the mental work required.

Success is “built,” hence the word bodybuilding. And when it comes to your communications strategy the same holds true for “business building.”

Focus on Your Goals

This is one I struggled with quite a bit. I love being active and want to compete in ALLLL the things.

ALLLLLLLL the things.

I want to race triathlons, and do adventure races, and….and….and.

Unfortunately—despite my belief to the contrary—I am not a superhero. And therefore, my attempt to be a champion at everything, took away time and both mental and physical energy from the goals that mattered for my sport (and prevented me from being a champion at anything).

This last year however, with the help amazing and extremely patient coach, I’ve been laser-focused.

The result?

It’s by far been my most productive and successful year.

It’s the most important broken record in communications—your communications strategy must be built based on your goals.

Every tactic you employ must directly move you closer to those goals. Any tactic which doesn’t only dilutes or hurts your efforts—no matter how trendy or popular. 

Focus is key to success.

Understand Your Weak Points

In every sport athletes have strengths and weaknesses. The biggest mistake any athlete makes is to ignore their weak points and think their strengths will get them by.

The weak points are what define champions.

Bodybuilding is no different, and while the weakness itself might be visible, the reason for it often is not.

This is where knowledge, research, and a bit of investigative work comes in.

The same holds true when you build a communications strategy. You must understand the weaknesses in your organization and the obstacles to reach your goals.

Your communications strategy must built upon the weak points, just as much as the strengths.

Success Takes Time

When we start with a new client we are very careful to set expectations.

Your domain authority won’t increase 12 points in three months. Nor will you be forced to run from paparazzi two weeks after initial earned media outreach (unless you did something very bad or have the last name Kardashian).

Your brand new blog won’t drive thousands of leads the first month. 

While we wish we could grant you instant success. We can’t. Success takes time and consistent, focused work.

Bodybuilding is much the same, despite the “six week transformation” stories you see, this isn’t the way the sport works.

It takes years (emphasis on the plural) to build a winning physique.

And guess what else? There is no off-season. You are either improving or you are prepping. There isn’t a time you just sit idle.

No matter what you do in life, if you want to be successful, you just have to put your head down, focus on your goals, and continue to pump out consistent, exceptional work day in and day out.

That alone is what creates success.

Integration is Mandatory

Bodybuilding isn’t just about lifting heavy things.

A successful physique athlete has to integrate many working pieces together:

  • Training
  • Nutrition
  • Psychological
  • Posing

All these things must be in focus and work hand-in-hand.

I have a coach whom I trust to be able to use his insight and knowledge, as well as his ability to have a comprehensive view of my situation (my body is like a start-up organization, and I’m the founder—it’s pretty difficult to be unbiased and detached from the immediate and emotional) to integrate everything together.

Likewise, a communications strategy must encompass all four media types and they must work seamlessly together—tactics for each supporting and complimenting those in the next.

Sure, you might be able to get some attention only focused on one media type and I might make some progress only caring about one aspect of my training. But goals aren’t reached by “might,” “maybe,” and “some.”

An integrated communications strategy maximizes your opportunity for success.

And there you have it! Five tactics of successful bodybuilders for you to use in your communications strategy planning.

So go out there and pump it up!

Oh, and wait, wait….I almost let this post come to a close without an Arnold Schwarzenegger meme. I’d surely be kicked out of the sport!

So, here you go:

A Bodybuilder's Guide to Communications Strategy

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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