Housewive's favourite Andy Murray may not be an immediate example of a comms wizard. But hear us out a second, okay?
by Louise Powney
Really?!” snort bandwagon observers of tennis. But bear with me. Tennis fans knew that as Andy Murray hoisted aloft the singles trophy on Centre Court for the second time (and then took it into an ice bath with him) that this was the result of an immaculately played campaign both on and off the court.
I believe we can all learn something from the Great Scot on how to operate in the professional sphere (but I concede that admiration, like love, is blind…). Here are five lessons:
1. Embrace inconvenience
In September 2013 Murray had back surgery, a big decision for any athlete due to rehab, but he knew it would be an investment.
What if he hadn’t done this and played on? Chances are he’d be playing under the threat of constant pain, possibly dropping out of tournaments and anxious about lasting the seven rounds it takes to win a Grand Slam.
Hands up if you’ve seen half-baked projects released into the world because there was one thing that should have been done but it was seen as too hard or too time-consuming to do? And did that project really achieve what it needed to? Need I actually ask?
Be like Andy, suck up short-term inconvenience for long-term glory.
2. Don’t believe in lost causes
Murray’s surgery meant that 2014, by his standards, was less than stellar. After September’s US Open there was clearly a discussion with his team about what he could get out of the rest of the season and the decision to qualify for the season-ending championships and to boost his world ranking (he had fallen sub-top ten) was made. He then went on a mission to hoover up points and achieved both these aims.
Ever watched a project slowly derailing? Ever wondered why no-one was prepared to speak up before it was too late to salvage something from it? Ever thought to yourself “why is everyone scared to admit this is happening”?
Be like Andy, be brave enough to know that re-evaluating your goals isn’t failure, it’s about getting the best that you can for your efforts.
3. Be a team player
Tennis is an intensely individual sport and has long attracted glory hunters. And why not? There are riches to be had at the very top.
However, in the same way it is supposed to take a village to raise a child, today it appears to takes a small town to build a tennis player. Murray never forgets this and his team is insanely loyal to him and he to them.
Witness GB’s recent Davis Cup tie with Serbia in which neither Andy nor Novak Djokovic played. The former was there in as chief cheerleader, the latter was nowhere to be seen. Where was he? At home. In Monte Carlo. And he didn’t send a single tweet in support of the nation of which he’s supposedly so proud.
Ever watched dismayed as a superior prances off to a meeting with a comms plan you’ve sweated over clutched in their hand? And did that nauseous below-stairs-at-Downton-Abbey sense of impotence rise in you as you realised you’d be getting 0 per cent of the credit?
Be like Andy, know that being truly big means never thinking you’re bigger than your team.
Do one thing, do it well
Andy’s Twitter bio [ ] is “I play tennis”. Novak’s is “Laugh as long as you breathe, love as long as you live!”. Who knows what that means but one thing’s for certain - not laughing now, eh Novak? (For the record, Roger Federer’s [ ] is “Professional tennis player.” Yes, thank you Roger, we didn’t think you were playing for free.)
You know where you are with Andy, it’s all about the tennis. Whilst Djokovic, the Only Father in the World™, is posting photos of his son here there and everywhere, try finding a photo of little Sophia Murray. (You’ll have more luck with Andy’s dogs, one of whom is a semi-regular and witty tweeter.)
Sure, there are many elements that need to combine to make a great tennis champion but all roads lead to one place, and if you take too many detours everyone starts getting a bit antsy.
We’ve all been on the receiving end of it: “We need a Facebook page, do Twittering and an app! Yeah an app! Oh yeah! And posters! We still need posters. Oooo, and pens! With logos!” There’s plenty of racket (no pun intended), but a complete failure to articulate that one key message.
Be like Andy, know exactly what you’re doing and do it well.
There is no disconnect between what Murray says and what he does and this is because he has resolutely stuck to being himself ever since he turned professional at 17, and people now realise and appreciate this.
People who say he’s dull just aren’t listening. He’s a very intelligent man who rightly gets a bit irritated by reporters asking asinine questions (I’m looking at you Garry Richardson, the BBC’s King of the Closed Question).
Get him chatting on almost anything else though and it’s a different story. He’s got a dangerously dry sense of humour and has also carved out a niche for himself as the go-to man to Say Something Sensible when everyone else is wedging their feet into their mouths (see recent rows about equal pay, event sponsorship by bookmakers, women coaching men.
For anyone who watched Novak’s please-love-me charm offensive throughout this year’s French Open, Murray’s on-court approach feels like a thorough teeth cleaning after being forced to gargle with Golden Syrup. He gets a bit grumpy! He chats to himself so much I’m beginning to wonder if a social worker needs to get involved! He’s not afraid to have a bit of a cry! None of it is forced, it’s just him.
Audiences of whatever stripe aren’t daft. They can tell if someone believes in what they’re doing, and if they’re going about it in an honest way.
Ever organised a launch where a politician or another big-wig has been wheeled out but doesn’t understand someone else’s hard work and cares about it even less? Something inside you dies, doesn’t it?
Be like Andy, care about what you’re doing and trust that other people will want to join you on that journey.
Louise Powney is a communications officer in the north west and a former newspaper reporter.