Obsession to profession: Why PRs should mix work and play

I can hear it now – the beat of the drum and the horns of the Mastermind introduction. Clive Myrie is across from me and I’m in the hot seat… 

Name: Sean Stanfield

Your profession: Sports PR Specialist 

And your specialist subject: Parkrun and cycling coffee stops 

Well, what else was going to be my specialist subject? Allied actions of Operation Market Garden 1944?

It makes sense though, doesn’t it? What I do in my spare time is my specialist subject. Growing up though we were taught that work and play shouldn’t mix. It took five years of work before I decided to hell with convention and began working in the sector, I could enjoy both in and out of work.

My passion has always been endurance sports. Cycling across countries, ultra-marathons, and evenings of route planning and data analysis. It has been an obsession for more than a decade and is now my profession. 

To a degree, I fell into it. I happened to be looking for a new role when I was preparing for another endurance event. I aced the interview, and I’ve excelled ever since. How? Because I spoke the language. I could talk at great lengths about the clients I’d be working on, their direct competitors, the pros and cons of their latest gear, and my opinions on where there were gaps in the marketing strategy.  

When I began working with brands, I picked up the finer details quickly and began delivering coverage.  I knew the publications, the content, the media angles and the audience. 

sean portrait

About the author

Sean Stanfield

A lover of endurance sports, Sean has moulded his love of all-things running and cycling with his natural talent for PR. He works with some of the country’s biggest sports brands to deliver dynamic campaigns and press office function, all whilst directing the agency’s internal PR Operations.
After spending four years working across some of the biggest cycling brands, Sean joined Brandnation and quickly rose through the ranks.
A trained television journalist and multi-marathon runner, Sean has also cycled the length of Great Britain from John O’Groats to Lands End.

In essence, I am the target audience. I am my client’s customer, and I am the media’s reader. 

For me, PR is about communicating a brand’s messaging to the media. When the account team speaks the language, the transition to a new agency is a bit easier. Product training to release sign-off, activation ideas to influencer recommendations; are all made easier when the team already knows its place in the market. 

Importantly, journalists are also specialists in their field. They’ve tested every product across sectors and can spot an imposter a mile away. The terminology will be off, the product comparisons will be out of sync, or the wording of a pitch just won’t sit right. Having someone representing a brand who is also a specialist in their field gives cut through, and positive brand representation. 

It helps that they’re just like everybody else. Not everyone in the industry has time for a leisurely lunch now, but chances are they’ll be more than game for a 40-minute run around a park. It’s a casual sell-in affair. Chatting life, clients and of course, shared passions. The mental notes will be there, and the journalist will leave with a warm fuzzy feeling that they had a lovely time with a nice PR.  

This is because there is a shared understanding of the nuances that come from performance sports and technology. How the industry has changed over the years which makes a product so revolutionary; or why the difference in grams can influence the outcome of a race. In these conversations, we get the finer details and key messaging of our clients across – and it feels oh-so natural. 

So, when I’m sat there across from Clive, that wry smile on his face as I realise the pressure is still on me, I will be calm and confident in my knowledge and articulation. And why wouldn’t I? It’s been my obsession and profession for years – and what I enjoy doing and talking about the most. 

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