Here is to the BENCH players


By Bill Orr

With March Madness rushing towards us full-court press, it’s time to discuss the parallels between the importance of communications in the professional workplace and communications on the basketball court. And what better subject matter to use than that of the BENCH?

Basketball serves as a great opportunity to examine high-pressure situations before, during and after an event. And if you are in the communications business, you will quickly grasp the similarities. To build the perfect game plan, it becomes essential to reflect on key communications principles that build more than just enthusiasm about a company, candidate or product announcement. What is even more critical is to have depth on the BENCH that has ability to foster true engagement between a brand – whether that is a candidate, company, school or basketball team – and the primary stakeholders – also known as the fans.

If you are a follower of sports (or politics or business in general) you know the importance of a deep and reliable BENCH is nothing new. And heading into tournament play, coaches of all programs have to consider the methodology of mixing and matching talent in different scenarios. I submit this is similar to manager planning as they are constantly mixing and matching their marketing disciplines to find the right recipe for success when their game – or product announcement – is on the line. Thus, understanding the importance of the BENCH methodology as part of a broader strategic conversation makes sense. For proof, one only needs to look at the BENCH play for NBA’s Golden State Warriors – seamless in their creative display. Same can be true when you are building a campaign with multiple disciplines in motion, such as Double Forte client Jaunt’s launch of the premium content “Invisible.”

As a huge basketball fan, and a strategic communications advisor in the mix of some significant planning right now, here is what I’ve found can be gleaned from leveraging the BENCH:

  • Build: The ability of a communicator to build enthusiasm for an event is akin to a point guard orchestrating his team on offense. No social channel should be left unturned, and for that matter, back door pass either! But know your audience, Twitter and Snapchat are exactly right for promoting a basketball game to an audience of 5000 high school students. Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram might work a little better for an executive trying to secure attendance for a news conference.
  • Engage ambassadors (the home team) and detractors (the away team) to participate in the activation (game). Your most treasured asset should be the fans that already adore your team or brand. Give them the tools to share your mission, via great and shareable content that is both immersive and on message. And don’t run away from detractors. That doesn’t mean attack every opportunity you have. Rather, listen constantly via already pre-established filters – Hootsuite is a good one.
  • Navigate the pitfalls of attracting new audiences who don’t necessarily follow either brand (or team). Recognize every activation or game is not going to go as planned. But that adversity can offer a new opportunity to not only try something new, but re-invent a campaign based on what is happening now. The ability to navigate and improvise off the court (and on) can make or break a campaign. In short: being relevant is more than half the battle in communicating to fans.
  • Capture the moment for even a larger audience to enjoy and share. By now there shouldn’t be any question about the importance of shareable content. But for goodness sake, let’s make it quality shareable content. For the new crew on the BENCH, considering taking a look some to do’s featured on From the Forte. And for the emerging point guards in the crowd, please share the ball!
  • Hone in on the most salient part of building relationships with consumers (fans): the ability to listen without overreacting. There is plenty of noise coming from executives from all walks of life having a trigger finger when it comes to Twitter and other social media platforms. You can see many, including Facebook, announce a manifesto to reveal a purposeful path forward. This is good news, especially in light of so much chaos. My advice: don’t overreact. There is a big difference between reacting to trolls who are looking to instigate a problem and listening to people – fans, advocates and detractors – who want to share a POV. Best to know the difference.

Heading into March Madness and beyond, follow the BENCH methodology to select the best choices to build the best possible game plan. It may be a wise methodology to think about it in your personal career too. For other insight, check our podcast Focus in Your Friend.

Bill Orr is Chief Strategy officer for Double Forte. Find him here: