Krista Giannak Blind Skier Vermont Adaptive USABA Group Photo

What Do Blind Skiing and Marketing Have In Common?

The powdery snow felt soft under my skis. The temperature was just right, and the company even better during my ski weekend with Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports and the United States Association of Blind Athletes from February 10-12, 2018. I’m a blind skier, and people often ask me how and why I ski without sight. As I answer their questions, I notice the parallels between blind skiing and my career as I guide businesses and nonprofits through the often overwhelming process of getting noticed.

Guiding People In The Right Direction

To enable me to stay safe as a blind skier, ski guides call out directions to me or use a pole to link us together. Similarly, in marketing, I guide my clients to uncover hidden stories and opportunities to share their expertise with the people who matter most to them. Both situations involve deciding on a direction and following through on that decision. When we hit bumps in the road, we get up and keep going.

Trusting In The Process

To ski as a blind person, I must trust ski instructors and other trained volunteers. These wonderful people follow processes for guiding blind and visually impaired people and teaching us to ski. The processes arise from the rich experiences of many visually impaired and blind skiers, sighted guides, and ski instructors who came before us. Instruction and guiding methods also improve over time. Because I met successful blind skiers and their instructors, I knew there was a way. That’s why I had enough trust to try to ski in the first place. Similarly, content marketing and public relations practices originate from, and are improved by, the rich experiences of marketers and public relations professionals. My fellow marketers and I can show you the way because we build on our previous successes and learn from setbacks.

Positioning Clients For Success

When I ski, my guides carefully choose our positions on the slope. We traverse the slope so that we are not skiing too fast. During alpine skiing, two to three people are involved in making sure that I have a wide enough space to maneuver, and that if I fall, it will be as safe as possible for me to do so. Our positions make all the difference on the slopes, as they do for my nonprofit and small business clients also. Positioning a client for success might mean pitching them as a thought leader in their industry, planning an event to create buzz for a new product launch, or building relationships with reporters over time.

Taking Reasonable Risks

Clients don’t always get coverage when they hire someone for media relations. They also don’t always get qualified leads just because they hire a content marketer to write some new copy for their website. Outcomes aren’t always predictable on the ski slopes either, and people get injured. That’s why I manage client expectations ahead of time. Just as I asked lots of questions in an effort to realistically assess my risk on the ski slopes, I answer my clients’ questions about their return on investment. Together, we work to maximize their results and manage the risk of a failed attempt at publicity. In the end, everyone benefits when the risks and benefits are clear to all. Your definition of a reasonable risk may also change over time and with new insight, as mine has.

Learning From Setbacks

I hate bad news, and debriefing clients after a publicity setback is tough. Likewise, on the ski slopes, I’ve seen skiers get injured and then analyze what went wrong. In both situations, the most successful rebounds happen when everyone involved can learn from mistakes and other factors that led to the results they got.

I’m a beginner at skiing and still have a lot to learn. When I feel unsure, I redouble my efforts to understand the situation and reestablish trust with my ski guides. Although I’m not a novice at copywriting or public relations, I continue to educate myself and grow as a professional.

Having Freedom To Face Fear

When I glide across the snow, I feel empowered. I’m grateful for the freedom to face my fear and the sensation of achieving something I once thought would be impossible for me. I would love for all people to get the opportunity to explore adventures they never thought possible. For people with disabilities, who often live with the consequences of low societal expectations, this exploration of possibilities is especially important. Moving beyond low societal expectations is the best way to fulfill my potential as a person with a disability.

Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports is a nonprofit empowering people with disabilities to participate in sports year-round. In addition to downhill and cross-country skiing, Vermont Adaptive offers cycling, snowboarding, kayaking, indoor rock climbing, wellness retreats, and more.

The United States Association of Blind Athletes is a nonprofit serving blind and visually impaired athletes of all ages and abilities from local grassroots programs to the elite Paralympic level. In addition to skiing, sports include swimming, tandem cycling, biathlon, goalball, track and field, tennis, and more.

If you could’ve gone back in time to tell college student Krista that she would one day learn to balance on skis under her own power, she wouldn’t have believed you. When I started skiing six years ago, I still didn’t think I’d ever make it up on the lift, no less back down again. Wonderful things happened, only because I dared to try. Will you?

More About My Personal Story: Journey to the Stage

In 2017, my personal journey was featured as the cover story of Journey to the Stage – Volume Five: Stepping Up and Stepping Out to Share Your Message, an anthology of entrepreneurs facing fears and challenges to make a difference in their communities. Learn more and purchase your print copy here.

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