Everyone has their own way of looking at the world of business, whether you’re an artist who sees a new campaign as a blank canvas or a techie who envisions clients and stakeholders as part of a network designed to connect for a common goal. For Nikki Barjon, founder of The Barjon Group, the world is a football game and her job is to win every single game. “Coach Nikki” used this sports metaphor to describe her unique approach to public relations management and execution. Here are some of the highlights:
First things first, a PR team cannot succeed without looking at both the offense and the defense. In other words, when designing a strategy and “calling plays,” you need to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your client, the competition, and your industry as a whole. Also, you have to trust your team; every team member has value, and as long as you play to each other’s strengths, you’ll never have to second guess or micromanage one another.
While Barjon runs a fairly egalitarian firm—she doesn’t use official titles in the office—there is no question who’s in charge. “Coaching doesn’t work,” she says, “if it’s optional.” However, she had an important lesson to teach about staying humble. Inviting an audience member on stage, she instructed them to pour water into a glass until she told them to stop. The volunteer poured until it was full and Barjon urged her to keep going, allowing the glass to overflow onto the table and stage. She emphasized that we are the glass and the water is criticism and advice; if we’re full of ourselves, we cannot let information in and as a result, helpful information that can lead to growth goes ignored.
The most important advice Barjon gave was to make a playbook, a professional plan that defines where you want to end up and how you will get there. This playbook should be unique to your strengths and weaknesses. While looking to others for inspiration and career advice is useful, your playbook should always reflect your own values and goals. “I don’t want another me,” says Barjon, “I want you!” Once you design your playbook, you should study and live by it no matter the circumstances.
While your ability to perform on the field may define your success from an outside perspective, nothing is possible without putting in work outside of the game. To truly succeed, you need to stay one step ahead of the competition by improving when nobody is looking. This includes: reading trade publications; studying the competition to understand what does and does not work; setting goals for yourself and your company, and defining yourself. She suggests adopting a theme song but warns “don’t get caught up in the rap” by emulating others and losing sight of why you play the game.
By following this guide, Barjon suggests that anyone that puts their mind to it can succeed in the world of business. But most importantly, you have to do “whatever is necessary to win because in the end, LOSING SUCKS!”