March Madness for PR Spring has officially sprung. For sports lovers, this means March Madness, the pinnacle of the college basketball season, is in full-swing. As I meticulously filled out my bracket (and watched it crumble after some surprising games in the first round), I noticed some parallels between the tournament and the PR agency world.

The first lesson I learned from watching March Madness is the importance of preparing a game plan.

In 2013, an overlooked and well-prepared Wichita State University team came into the tournament as a No. 9 seed for its region. After knocking off Gonzaga and Ohio State, the region’s top two teams, the Shockers put themselves on the nation’s radar. The team cruised into the Final Four, losing to the eventual overall tournament champion, Louisville, in the final moments of the game.

Each year there are a handful of lower-ranked teams that go exceptionally far in the NCAA tournament, proving that it doesn’t always matter what you’re initially ranked as long as you do your homework and prepare for each matchup. These “Cinderella story” teams work with their coaches to study their opponent’s strategies.

In the PR world, doing your homework is crucial to your client’s success and relevancy. Understanding how media relations, social media and other tactics function in different industries will allow you to appropriately tailor your work to each client. PR is not one-size-fits-all; what works for one client may not necessarily be effective for another.

It’s important to know who your client’s competition is. What are the media saying about your client, the competition and the industry as a whole? Answering these questions will allow you to better understand how to best serve your client.

Doing your homework is not an option. Whether on the court or in the office, you need to be prepared with a game plan.

Check back tomorrow, when Shelby will share the second of three in her “March Madness for PR” series.