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In recent weeks, sales of chess boards have exploded across the globe. Could this be Christmas 2020’s top family game? In short, perhaps, – and that’s pretty much a direct consequence of The Queen’s Gambit, the new Netflix series that has become a global phenomenon as their biggest limited scripted series ever, since launching in October 2020.

The drama – which details the fictional story of orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon – has not only reinvigorated enthusiasm for the game and increased sales on a global scale, but for many like myself it has also been drawing viewers in to consider the fundamentals of the game a little more deeply.

There are many reasons why the popular board game has become a constant and loveable pastime for many people around the world, spanning across generations. Though however easy the fundamentals of play may seem, the game does not come without its complications and a plethora of intricate methods to success which beg to be discovered by those who are willing to take it on. A game of chess is one of strategy, persistence, and virtuoso positioning.

And that’s the real reason why The Queen’s Gambit got me thinking; delivering effective communications is a lot like playing chess. Throughout the Netflix series, words like ‘strategy’, ‘creativity’, ‘positioning’ and ‘tactics’ are commonplace. Similarly, when each component of a successful communications campaign works together in tandem, that’s when you see the greatest success. Success on the board and in the boardroom.

After giving this some deeper thought, I started noticing more and more parallels between succeeding at chess – and communications. Here are my insights:

In order to checkmate, you must first have a strategy

In chess, you simply can’t reach checkmate in one move; you must have a plan which covers the opening, middle game, and endgame – much akin to a communications strategy cycle. Jump into the game without first knowing the fundamentals, and you’re most likely heading to a fall. Therefore, it is essential to carefully plan and outline your strategy in the first instance, understanding your audience, outputs and objectives from the outset and choosing the right time to strike.

Whether chess or communications, sometimes the best strategy is to gravitate focus around one aspect: the end game. By figuring out your exact requirements and how you’re going to get there, you can save yourself a lot of repositioning and gently guide focus towards the end result. Much like a game of chess, communicating effectively involves continually revisiting your goals, laying down the necessary strategies and tactics required to meet them.

Successful ‘pressure players’ always have the upper hand

For some serious die-hard players, a game of chess can take around 5–6 hours. Historically, professional chess players have even taken over 30 minutes to complete a single move. Quick-fire tiebreakers with a time limit of 25 minutes, however, are a completely different story. And in the fast-paced world of communications, we very rarely have the comfort of too much time. It’s vital that we respond quickly to media requests and short deadlines, and it’s important that we react fast to any sudden crises. All of this, while simultaneously managing multiple projects and deadlines with varying needs and differing deadlines, can make the difference in achieving those all-important objectives. Quick, agile and action-focused – while remaining calm to navigate complications successfully. Much like chess.

Every piece is important

It’s clear that each individual chess piece possesses its own value and is integral to the success of the game. This too is integral to delivering effective communications. Each aspect – whether PR, social media, public affairs, creative design, strategic management –lays the foundation for the overall success of the campaign. In a similar ilk, every colleague brings their own unique skills and attributes that together amount to success. As an agency working collaboratively with our clients can be a truly inspiring and creative process, generating fresh ideas that will support, craft and shape messaging and perspective for a range of audiences. Working collectively is a recipe for success, and everyone has a part to play.

At Social, our employees span across Leeds, Manchester, Bristol and London. Working together across offices, we ensure that the right blend of activity and skills are matched to achieve the client’s desired result.

Just as The Queen’s Gambit has been making all the right moves on televisions far and wide, the right strategy, collaboration and time management can ensure that your business does too. If you’d like to find out how we could help you, then please contact: Racheal Johnson, Head of Strategy (Racheal.Johnson@social.co.uk) or Katie Paterson, Account Manager (katie.paterson@social.co.uk).