30 June 2021

Par for the course: where golf and communications collide

Nick Ford-Young

If, like me, you picked up golf in lockdown or are new to the game, you’ll understand just how frustrating it can be.

You might cream one off the tee, sending it 250 yards hurtling down the fairway, in perfect position for a smooth seven iron into the green, but with the very next shot you might shank one 40 yards to the right and watch it trickle into an unplayable ditch, guarded by knee-high rough.

Yet the game is addictive. I’m forever striving for that next birdie, that magical flop shot or that 35-foot three-tiered lag putt.

One thing I didn’t foresee was the distinct overlap between golf and another world I’m new to – communications. From strategy and data, to mindset and preparedness; here are my take homes one year since graduating, with a year of experience playing golf and working in comms.

It pays to know the course

Golf is drastically easier when you know where to miss. This may sound an obvious point, but knowing the course is vitally important to shooting a low score. Course knowledge does not necessarily mean you have played there before, it simply means you’ve done your research and prepared your strategy in advance.

Likewise, challenger brands are often newcomers to their respective markets. The most successful are those that have done their research, that know their competitors and have carved out their own niche.

In my time with Boldspace, we’ve had almost weekly new client wins. Everyone is involved in the process – from initial ideation, creating pitch decks and presenting our strategy, to working with the client and implementing these ideas. As a team we immerse ourselves in the spaces our clients operate in, through preexisting expertise and extensive research we endeavor to know their markets, often better than they do.

Dr Bob Rotella in his book Golf is Not a Game of Perfect argues how all golfers “must play every significant round with a gameplan”. Whenever I waltz onto the first tee of a new course without studying the layout of the hole, I take driver, blast it down the right-hand side into an out of sight bunker and have to chip back onto the fairway to continue with the hole – most likely ending with a blob on the scorecard.

At Boldspace it is quite the opposite approach, where I am learning that a successful strategy comes from knowledge guided by experience and data. Our PR and brand strategy is informed by our proprietary technology BoldLensTM, coupled with decades of experience across brand, marketing, PR and advertising. BoldlensTM accumulates data from multiple internal and external sources and, among other things, monitors competitor activity across paid, earned and social. Being guided by this data means we know the home course, meaning we can most effectively anchor a brand’s messaging, tone of voice, and market position.

An obsession with numbers

Golfers are inherently obsessed with stats as they provide an accurate, objective representation of where their game is at. From questions like “what’s your handicap?” and “what did you go round in?”, to stableford points, ball and clubhead speed, total carry, angle of attack and stroke indexes – we are consumed by the numbers.

Likewise in comms, attention to the numbers is vital. Our team is totally transparent when it comes to the financials and we are all actively involved in driving the growth of the business. Whether it be new business pipeline or yearly targets, we are all hyper-aware of the trajectory Boldspace is headed in.

Golf is a sport where you play against yourself as much as you play against others. My first goal was always to break 100 and the second I achieved that, it became an obsession to break 90.

This is similar to my experience in business, week on week, quarter on quarter, year on year we are striving to not only achieve our growth goals but exceed them. This hunger for growth is fostered within a team who genuinely care about the path our business takes – achievable in part due to an understanding of the numbers and a constant focus on delivering the very best for clients.

A growth mindset

One of the best things about golf is that it encourages you to be in the growth mindset, as you can truly never conquer it. As the saying goes, the golf swing is just about the farthest thing from a perfectible discipline.

Dr Carol S. Dweck explains the growth mindset as a belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts (time spent at the range), your strategies (pre-round planning) and your help from others (lessons).

Even Tiger Woods nods to the growth mindset. He revels in the grind, explaining that “sometimes you get even more satisfaction out of creating a score when things aren’t completely perfect” after coming third at the British Open.

I’m not comparing myself to the greatest golfer of all time, but I do take satisfaction in the process of hitting balls on the range, chipping over bunkers and putting on the practice green – it makes that par all the sweeter.

Equally I’m no life coach, but I do think that applying the same theory to work as Tiger does to golf will help me in my career working in Boldspace.

When the pitch doesn’t flow like I intend, when I can’t articulate myself properly or when I slip up – I believe in manufacturing the energy to come back better the next day through application and effort. In golf, and in work, stretching yourself even when it’s not going well is the hallmark of a growth mindset.