Lessons from a Professional Athlete turned Public Relations Professional

February 12, 2019

My first job after completing my Public Relations degree didn’t take me to a corporate headquarters or nonprofit office – instead, it took me around the globe as a professional volleyball player, learning from world-class coaches along the way. When I came home to a job in public relations and strategic communications, I realized there were lessons I learned playing volleyball that applied to my new role – lessons that can be adapted to YOUR team to improve the impact and success of your organization’s PR game.


1.   “You may get worse before you get better.”
I was learning a new, better way to perform a skill. After a first attempt ended in failure, I immediately reverted to my old, less efficient, but comfortable way. “I’m just not good at it,” I told my coach. He responded, “Of course you aren’t! You’ve never done it before.”

Experts are constantly coming up with new and improved ways of approaching media pitches, social media outreach, and brand awareness. Embrace the constant learning, or you will never experience the success.

2.    “You are not bad, there is just room for improvement.”
How many times have you heard, “Well I’m just not good at public speaking,” or, “I’m just not creative”? Instead of looking at a weakness as something you are “just not good at,” look at it as an area in which to grow into an even more valuable team member.

Don’t limit yourself to just what you currently know – and, don’t be afraid to reach out to experts for support to help you improve. Participate in media training and invest in professional development to expand your areas of knowledge, expertise and comfort. You are not only what you can currently do.

3.    “Give yourself constructive criticism.”
Instead of waiting to hear what you did wrong, get a step ahead by conducting a little self-evaluation. We must constantly demonstrate the value of our initiatives or projects through ROI.

Apply the same logic to yourself: If you are able to pinpoint where you made a mistake, or what you can do better next time, you’ll be that much closer to executing a seamless event, or navigating a crisis unscathed. The more we look for areas to improve in, the more opportunities we provide ourselves with to excel past the competition.

4.    “Never leave room for the ‘What ifs’”
The worst feeling I experienced as an athlete was that “what if” feeling. That, “What if I had jumped a little higher on that block”, or, “If only I had focused a little harder on that serve.” You want to make sure you made every preparation, thought through every scenario, and exceeded expectations.

This applies the strongest to protecting your brand and your image, which can be done in comprehensive risk assessments or crisis plans. It also plays out through event preparation and media relations. Regardless of the challenge you’re facing, fewer “What ifs” provide you a clearer sense of direction and a path to resolution.


Maggie Speaks knows the importance of teamwork. Her 10+ years of experience in sports –  playing volleyball at the high school, collegiate and professional level– has taught her the value of achieving goals and overcoming obstacles. Hailing from the small town of Camden, South Carolina, she brought her competitive drive to the NP Strategy team with the goal of compelling clients to be the best in their respective industries.

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