At the top of a trail outside of Central City, with St. Mary’s Glacier in the background. One of the toughest, rockiest trails I’ve ridden to date but also one of the most rewarding!
By Emily Smith
They say it’s never too late to pick up a new hobby, and last fall, I took it to heart. While I never could have predicted that at 23 I would fall in love with a sport so foreign to me, I’ve become completely addicted to dirt biking and everything about it – the beautiful places it takes me to in the Rocky Mountains and deserts of Utah; the challenge and opportunity to prove to myself that I can still change, grow and learn new things; the bonds I’ve formed with fellow riders; the confidence I gain as I progress and improve; and the unmatched freedom of flying down a mountain trail beside a curious deer who, impossibly, seems unafraid of the revving engine underneath me.
As I was riding this past weekend amidst the backdrop of the gorgeous peaks of Buena Vista, I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the similarities between dirt biking and PR…
1) You have to learn as you go. When learning to ride a dirt bike, you can study the mechanics of the bike, watch others ride, practice clutching and shifting in neutral as much as you want – but in order to really learn what you’re doing, you just have to go for it. You learn as you go, trial and error style. PR is the same – you can study and take marketing, journalism and PR classes at college, you can read the latest news and trend reports, and stay updated on current best practices – but the best way to learn is to dive in and get real-world experience at your job or internship. PR is a hands-on career field where I’ve figured out the best way to learn new things is to just do them!
2) You must always be looking ahead at what’s coming next. One major skill in dirt biking is learning to proactively read the trail so you are ready for what’s up ahead. As a novice rider myself, often times I am looking at the terrain just in front of my tires and reading the trail as I go. However, as I gain experience, I’ll learn to read the trail farther ahead more quickly and accurately. PR is similar in the sense that experience helps you forecast trends and predict how certain situations will play out with clients and media. Always being mindful of ‘the next big thing’ is a key skill to develop through experience in PR and marketing.
3) In tough situations, it’s imperative to stay calm. In dirt biking, if you get stuck on a rock or hit a tree root and lose your balance, panicking is just about the worst thing you can do. If you’re able to stay calm, react quickly and with grace, you will likely get out of the tough situation with a little elbow grease, technique and a few deep breaths. The same principles apply to PR – in crisis situations, clients will look to you as a source of calm guidance. Losing your cool doesn’t help when a client or colleague is seeking your help to communicate and think clearly to solve a problem.
4) Everyone has a different style. Dirt biking comes in many different forms and every rider chooses to live their passion a different way, from riding trails in the mountains like me, to zipping around motocross tracks, to hitting huge jumps. The sport is what you make it, and it changes based on your needs and wants. When it comes to PR and marketing, every client’s needs are different and can’t be fulfilled by carbon copies of the same strategy or tactics. Similarly, every agency’s best practices are unique and what we live by here at FIG is totally different from other boutique agencies. It’s important to customize PR strategies to find what works for both you and your clients.
5) Tenacity is key. If I gave up on dirt biking the first time I crashed, it would have been a very short-lived hobby (as in one day). Growth only comes from challenging yourself, working hard and pushing beyond your limits. Similarly, there is just no replacement for a strong work ethic in the PR and marketing industry. If you are not self-motivated, a risk taker and willing to challenge yourself often, it will be tough to succeed in this industry.
6) When unknown obstacles arise (and they will), you learn to roll with it. The most important lesson I’ve learned so far in dirt biking is that there will always be unforeseen challenges and obstacles that are more difficult than you might expect. This is part of what you sign up for, and the best thing you can do is to learn to roll with it and accept change and challenges with grace and determination. In PR, adopting a similar attitude will be immensely beneficial in allowing you to solve problems with critical thinking and creativity. Expect the unexpected, as they say, and you will never be surprised!