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31 January 2024  •  Jeremy Arnold, Associate Principal

Great communications is a marathon not a sprint

forrest gump

Executing a great communications strategy is a marathon not a sprint, and there are some key steps you need to consider before you lace up your shoes and head out the front door.

Jeremy Arnold, Associate Principal at Bastion Reputation and experienced marathon runner, shares the similarities between these two major endeavours.

We’re one month into the new year, and for many one month into a new fitness regime or goal for 2024. For some this might be to run 5 kilometres by the end of March, for others it might be to tackle their first marathon. Regardless of what distance you’re aiming to conquer, if you’re having a crack, keep up the great work.

Speaking of firsts, the first of the world major marathons is in Tokyo in early March, which means the preparations for the elite runners are well underway. But what has running and marathons got to do with what we do at Bastion Reputation? Running a successful communications strategy is much like running a marathon. It takes plenty of preparation and hard work before you even step up to the start line. Taking the necessary time to work through the process is critical, and failure to do so could leave you underprepared, or even worse, deny you the goal of crossing the finish line.

Executing a great communications strategy is a marathon not a sprint, and these are some steps to consider before you head out the front door.


First is establishing the goal. 

Don’t be like Forrest Gump and just head off running without a plan or destination in mind.

Be more like current marathon world record holder Kelvin Kiptum. 

Whether you want to break a world record or just improve your PB, having a clear goal gives you clarity and a purpose which can help keep you focused on what’s important. 


Like a marathon runner builds a tailored training program, a good communications strategy identifies all the key elements required to help you achieve your goal. 

Understanding your target audience, the environment you are operating in, the stakeholders, materials, media platforms and spokespeople required are crucial to building an effective strategy. 

Without a clear strategy you run the risk of blowing up early in the race or even worse, breaking down before you get to the start line. 


Elite athletes though to amateur runners tackling their first marathon lean on a support team to help get them to the start line. 

Depending on how you want to prepare this could include a running coach, physio, strength and conditioning coach, dietitian and podiatrist. These experts are crucial to making sure you’re not only fit and ready for race day, but will give you the confidence you have the right tools, approach and ability to get to the finish line. 

Executing a good communications strategy is no different. 

Pulling together a crew of experts is necessary to help build, advise, refine and pressure test the communications strategy. 

This can include all or a mix of specialists in corporate and public affairs, crisis and reputation management, digital campaigns, organisational communications, or training and capability building. 

Failure to invest in the right team to support you is a rookie mistake and will most likely leave you falling short of your goal or missing it all together.


Part of any good strategy will also incorporate tactics.

Just like a runner may need to adjust their pace based on race conditions or how their body is feeling, good tactics will help you work through a range of identified scenarios which may occur during the race. 

In a communications setting, this might involve how to adapt to a changing media environment, or levers to pull to break free from competitors or detractors who are trying to muscle in on your air space. 

Workshopping tactics will enable you to navigate these obstacles and capitalise on opportunities in a calm and methodical way. 


With the preparation done, a solid strategy and support crew behind you, tactics at your disposal and a clear goal, it’s time to step up to the start line.


Getting caught up in the excitement of this moment can be challenging. In the lead up there’ll be countless people offering their advice and theories, so cool heads are required. Now is not the time to make the rookie mistake of listening to the white noise and deviating from the strategy. You’ve put in the hard work, now it’s time to run your race.

Similarly, if things get tough midway through, don’t dismiss the strategy. This is when you can utilise the tactics you’ve workshopped or call on the expertise of your support crew to help you get your communications back on track to finish the race. If you need a support crew to help you build a world record breaking communications strategy or if your current strategy has hit the wall and needs a shot of electrolytes, we can help. Executing a great communications strategy is a marathon not a sprint and we have the team to help you every step of the way.

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