What chess can teach us about PR planning

Posted on January 25, 2021


“Strategy requires thought, tactics require observation.” - Max Euwe, World Chess Champion 1935-37

This winter, a TV series sparked a new wave of interest in the game of chess, with more people putting their problem solving, concentration and time skills to the test as they learn to play this classic game.

While it’s unlikely that any of us are going to become Grand Masters or World Champions anytime soon, there’s a lot we can learn from the very basics of chess, and funny enough, much of it applies to the world of PR…

See the bigger picture

Chess is not just about your next move, it’s a whole strategy. A sequence of opening moves can dictate the direction of the whole game, and the best chess players know the first several moves they’ll make before they even begin.

Similarly in PR, deciding on an overarching strategy from the beginning of your planning process will ensure your campaign is succinct and consistent. Your strategy will underpin all of your individual tactics and tie it all together for a great end result.

Don’t rush it

Chess games can go on for hours as players try to read the board and make the best possible move. The longest reigning World Chess Champion in history, Emmanuel Lasker famously said, “When you see a good move, look for a better one.”

When you’re first given a campaign brief, it’s tempting to rush ahead straight to your tactics and creative ideas to show what you and your team can do. But that’s not necessarily the right move…

It’s important to think about the brief for a while, brainstorm ideas as a team and see it from all angles. Some of the best ideas can derive from your audience research or a fleeting thought from your team member.

The King can’t win a game by itself

A myriad of moves by all of your pieces on the board gets you to a Checkmate. Equally, collective thinking and harnessing each of your team members’ strengths will help as your build your PR plan:

- You’ll need your Knights, your creative minds who don’t always think in straight lines;

- You’ll need your trusty Rooks, those team members that specialise in a particular PR skill like copywriting or media relations, social media or event management;

- Of course, you’ll need your Queens, your experienced multitaskers who can jump right in to lend a hand wherever they’re needed;

- You’ll need your Bishops, the thought starters and ‘do-ers’ in your team who roll up their sleeves and get on with it;

- And last, but certainly not least, you’ll need your pawns. Those who carry the day-to-day work, processes and reporting behind your campaign, and who, when guided and mentored, can progress on to become a Queen and a key player in your game.

Chess is an art, and there are many ways to win the game - you just have to look for them. Applying these same basic principles to your PR planning will ensure you deliver the best campaigns possible.

It’s your move…