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  • Joe Culotta

How Public Relations Pros Can “Be Like Mike”

Updated: May 19, 2020

Lessons Taught from The Last Dance

I’m a die-hard sports fan and a huge Michael Jordan fan. I buy and wear his sneakers & apparel because I grew up in the 90s watching him play and I always wanted to “be like Mike.” His games were some of the greatest to watch but I was too young to understand his competitiveness and drive to succeed.

ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 documentary series titled “The Last Dance” is about Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls and takes you through his whole personal and athletic career as one of the greatest of all time or GOAT as the kids say. The ten-part series is some of the best storytelling I’ve seen as we finally get to hear Jordan, his teammates, rivals, family members, celebrities and others who were close to him share their views and feelings about many of the major moments that many of us witnessed as fans or foes. Even though the documentary is all about Jordan and his endeavors, there are a lot of things that I saw that could be used as lessons for working in public relations and in life.

Many of us will possibly never represent or be the biggest name in sports, but we can all use some of his traits in our daily lives to help us become a better person, achieve our goals and succeed. Below are some of the things I learned from the documentary that could be used while working in public relations and our everyday lives.

There’s nothing wrong with having a “competition problem”

Jordan was an endless competitor on and off the court. He routine included dominating the basketball game he played in and win every dollar he could from friends in other forms of competition such as golf and card games. His consistent gambling once caught the attention of the media and in an interview was asked if he had a gambling problem. He responded saying “I have a competition problem.”

I don’t gamble like Jordan but I when I heard that, I comprehended that kind of competitive mentality is something everyone should attempt to have. Just like anyone else who works in any job, I have a lot of competition. In advertising & public relations, you’re not only competing against other brands and organizations, you’re in a competition to get your employer or client noticed online against numerous other things such as breaking news, funny memes, cat videos, family and friend’s photos and political rants. I try to challenge myself every day asking “what can I do to make sure my target audience sees my work and not my competition?”

Side note and PR 101: don’t wear sunglasses during any interview (unless you’re representing a sunglasses company) especially when it’s a crisis response interview about accusations of gambling addiction.


If you fail at achieving your goal, go back to the drawing board

Jordan and the Bulls’ rivalry with the Detroit Pistons was the one part I was very anxious to see the most. I’ve read and seen other stories about how the Pistons aggressive and physical strategy to take down Jordan (“Jordan rule” as they called it) made it harder for the Bulls to attain their goal of winning a championship.

At the end of the 1990 season, the Bulls fell short against the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. Rather than go on vacation like many teams do after the season ends, they went straight to the gym and worked on getting in physical shape so their bodies can take the hits that the Pistons were giving. When the team returned in the 91 season, they not only beat the Pistons but Jordan and the Bulls won their first of six championships.

In life, you will at times fail at achieving a goal and that’s ok. What’s not ok is giving up and not trying again. If you fail, go back to the drawing board, see what went wrong and adjust those problems. It took Jordan seven years to win his first ring which means he failed six times trying to achieve his goal. Which leads to my next point…

Don’t settle for just one big win, win as much as you can.

Earlier this year, I won the Florida Public Relations Association Judges’ Award for my work with the American Cancer Society and their Road to Recovery campaign. It took a whole year to plan and execute the campaign and when I won, it felt like I finally got my first championship. Yeah, I was content and thrilled that I finally won, but then I realized that I can’t win just one. My mind is now like Mike and I hope to continue to prove my consistency in delivering positive results and not settle for anything less than award-winning quality work.

Many people tend to lay back and call it a day after accomplishing a huge goal. That definitely wasn’t the case with Michael Jordan. After his first championship, his mentality was to never settle for anything less than another ring, which is why he ended his career winning six championships.


Spend as much time as you can with your family and close relatives.

In The Last Dance, they showcased several moments when Michael Jordan displayed his close relationship with his father, James Jordan. His father was there during many of his major accomplishments including after Michael won his first championship.



Unfortunately, James was killed in 1993 by a random act of violence when someone shot him on the side of the road while taking a nap. Seeing Michael share how not having his father around to watch him accomplish his ambitions is a reminder to spend as much time as you can with your family and loved ones. Visit your family as often as you can if they live close by, if not, call them every once in a while, and say “hello”. Always kiss your spouse and say “I love you” to them before you walk out of the house. You never ever know when your or their time will come and they’re no longer with you.

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