This Halloween, Dress Like a Marketing Moron

After my Fire a Client Today post, I got to thinking about the issue of “yes” people in the PR business, especially on the agency side. I hope some folks took the idea of firing their worst client seriously but I fear little actual change has been made. PR people and agencies are still desperate to keep every dollar they can attached to their bottom line. I completely get it, less than a quarter into my first foray into building a business, I sometimes feel myself slip into the mindset of more clients/more revenue equals more success. It takes me a second, but I pull out of it.

This post is to encourage companies that work with outside PR help, contractors or agencies, to test them. In the spirit of Halloween, dress like a marketing moron. Think of the wackiest, most ridiculously not-attached-to-your-business-needs idea and bring it to your team the next time you talk to them. Perhaps on a standard weekly call – or via a quick one off to the consultant you have on board. It might take you a bit of time to think of an idea that is so off base but it will be worth it to see how they react.

Once you know your idea, bring it with gusto and excitement. Show the team just how stoked you are on making it happen, make sure they know you are proud of the idea and came up with it yourself. Really push the costume to the limit. One of three things will happen.

1. They will tell you the idea is whack – perhaps they will say it in a very diplomatic way but it will be clear that they think your nutty notion will not work. Essentially, they will fight back.

2. They will fall right in line – “great idea, Jim, how exciting! We’re going to write up a plan around it next week and get started right away.”

3. They will take your steaming pile of doodie and build something awesome. They will look at the moronic thing you said and see it as a challenge to make something amazing out of the base idea no matter how ridiculous. This might take your weekly call off track a bit, but let it. You can talk through the other stuff later or via email. If your team can think on their feet and turn a bad idea into a good one, let them do it and watch the process unfold.

Now, nothing is ever completely black or white but my two cents on the reactions above. Keep the first people on board, they tell it like it is and are counselors to you and your business. Fire the second people right away, they have failed miserably. For the third group, find more money for them or at least figure out a way to allow more of their time to go into active brainstorms with you about your business. If the way they think about your business issues with this much creativity, you should really get more of that!

Alternate title: Guess the VPs better be on the weekly calls this month

~ by Julie Crabill on October 30, 2009.

8 Responses to “This Halloween, Dress Like a Marketing Moron”

  1. [...] This Halloween, Dress Like a Marketing Moron « Needling the Haystack needlingthehaystack.com/2009/10/30/this-halloween-dress-like-a-marketing-moron – view page – cached After my Fire a Client Today post, I got to thinking about the issue of “yes” people in the PR business, especially on the agency side. I hope some folks took the idea of firing their worst… (Read more)After my Fire a Client Today post, I got to thinking about the issue of “yes” people in the PR business, especially on the agency side. I hope some folks took the idea of firing their worst client seriously but I fear little actual change has been made. PR people and agencies are still desperate to keep every dollar they can attached to their bottom line. I completely get it, less than a quarter into my first foray into building a business, I sometimes feel myself slip into the mindset of more clients/more revenue equals more success. It takes me a second, but I pull out of it. (Read less) — From the page [...]

  2. Your idea is whack

  3. I can appreciate the spirit of this exercise but it seems a bit backwards – why not test your agency/PR team, contractor at the beginning of relationship to make sure they’re the n#3 batch of folks and/or bybrid with #1, is there really enough time/energy to “trick” your team to see if they jump? what’s the point?

    • Hi PRFrenchy. Totally agree that companies should “test” their firms/contractors before they hire them but since this comes as part of what is essentially an interview, it is important to check back in. We have all been convinced during an interview that the person is a great hire and been wrong. And vice versa, some interviewees who seem just OK turn out to rock. When you engage a firm or contractor, you have hired them but lack the day-to-day facetime one normally gets after hiring a person internally. In the workplace, managers do quarterly, bi-annual or at least annual check in meetings to discuss performance and reevaluate needs. When dealing with external help, the makeup of your team can change over time – as can their desire and passion – and even their bosses need to keep clients in their seats at all costs. These changes can turn some of the best PR pros into yes men/women. That’s why I’d advise this short test just to do a temp check on your team.

  4. I’m on the fence with this one. I’ve experienced enough bad client ideas that in their minds were legitimate – these weren’t tests of the emergency broadcast system. Imagine what they could come up with if they wanted to trick/test us. We’d spend ALL our time countering this type of situation instead of being able to do good, solid work.

    • Thanks for your comment, Casacaudill – to be clear, not something that should be done over and over – totally agree with you that no solid work can get done if everything is a test. You can be sure that in internal situations, higher ups are looking at how employees react to situations and making a note of what they do right and wrong (sort of a test, I would argue). On the agency/contract side, I think this needs to happen too.

  5. Personally, I think saying “the idea is whack, but let’s see what we can make out of it” is the best approach. Set the bar low so that they don’t expect you to come out with guns a-blazin’… that way if the idea is *really whack* and totally unworkable, you don’t lose. Whereas if you are able to build the awesome idea out of the whack you look like the PR superstars you are…

    But, exceptionally good post JC and fantabulous blog – will be watching…

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