The best ideas are like great food. The ones that linger on the palate and memory are the ones that taste the best and that are most distinctive.
Those ideas are the work of craftspeople. They don’t come off a production line. If they did, they’d be repetitive and bland.
When you think about the truly memorable food that you’ve tasted, it is likely to have been dreamed up in someone’s kitchen or in a first class restaurant. It probably didn’t come out of a fast food outlet.
Some fast food businesses are huge. They have outlets in most countries in the world. They are consistent. They serve a quiet purpose. They don’t inspire.
What’s my point? Businesses often shop for PR services at large PR agencies. These agencies offer the comfort of a well-known brand and they offer resource (numbers of people) on a scale that boutique agencies can’t match. Some, I’d contend, are the PR equivalent of the fast food trade – more process than outcomes, more base sustenance than inspiring ideas.
If you analyse the PR and media relations actions that really matter to your business, are they connected to an effort defined by scale of the agency or the quality of the idea?
I’d argue the latter.
In my business our trade is creation and expression of ideas in words – words that have a taste, words that inspire, words that explain, words that the listener or the reader will feel compelled to share. These words carry ideas that can and do change the fortunes of the businesses that we represent.
Sometimes, we deliver millions of pounds of value for a business with one tighly written phrase or a new name for something. [It’s like the invoice that the plumber sent to Henry Ford for $1,000: $1 to move the valve, $999 to know where to move the valve to.] These words will catch on and will be carried in TV and radio news bulletins, in page leads in national newspapers and in hundreds of thousands of tweets. Every word is an ingredient, every one is selected with care.
It’s dead easy to pick a large agency. At the point of recruitment it’s an uncontroversial choice. They’ll point to their scale, they’ll point to their client base, they’ll see you through a difficult internal meeting because they’re a safe choice.
But will you remember what they did in years to come? Did they make a huge difference to your business? Did you get the feeling that they care enough about your business to call you on a weekend or late in an evening – or to do something else really surprising that made a huge difference? Did they seem as if they were part of your business, worrying about the things that worry you? Did they give you the feeling that they truly love what they do? Did they inspire you with the quality of their ideas and the clarity of their thinking?
If they did, if they do, that’s great. If they didn’t, if they don’t, maybe it’s time to consider something a bit more specialist with a slightly more distinctive taste.