To help an organization achieve its objectives. Period. Sounds shiny-strawberry-on-the-whip cream obvious, but all too often, it is not. In a recent meeting, someone said, "Why don't we do x?" And why not?
X sounded interesting.
X was cool.
And depending on how X was configured, X could be developed in a way that would help this organization achieves one of its objectives. Let's call this legitimate objective "Y."
"What should X look like? How will we pull off X? Wouldn't X be cool?"
From square one, X should be challenged, "How does X support Y, precisely?"
I my travels, I find PR people sometimes focusing on X; Y is an afterthought, or worse yet, a non-thought.
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I have a new client whose name I can use because I'm going to tell you how smart he is . . . because he actually is pretty damn smart, and has this focus on True North, on the Big Y, that is refreshing. His name is Joe Verbanic. He's the Marketing Director for OSRAM/Sylvania's Automotive Aftermarket. In a recent presentation to him on our 2011 plans, we had objectives spelled out, except they weren't the exact right "Y." After listening to our presentation, he calmly, methodically, asked us to go back to those objectives and asked us to remember what he'd told us when we first presented our capabilities several months ago on the our Automotive Practice. His "Y" was the proverbial strawberry-on-whip cream: "Will It Drive Sales?" or WIDS? Then we talked about lots of X's, or things we could do to drive sales. WIDS had secured reserved parking in the front row of the meeting attendees' minds, and after discussing--as is so common in every PR ideation/planning session--how this X would work compared to another, we went through lots of cool, creative ideas and put them to the WIDS test. Some super interesting ideas didn't pass muster, so they fell off, as they should have.
Because cool ideas are not the point.
Achieving Y is the point.
X serves Y, not vice versa.
Occasionally we forget that relationship, or don't consider Y as we should in the first place. People in these meetings on the agency side are then often afraid to say so of their own idea ("I don't want to contradict myself in front of colleagues and clients") or even scarier, the clients' ideas ("I don't want to challenge the client's ideas and upset them or show disrespect") or most sacrosanct, a co-worker's idea ("Bad politics, they'll think I'm angling for pecking order with the client or higher ups on our side of the table."). But if Y gets lost, as it sometimes does, we have to have the gumption to ask the question . . . especially if you're convinced that it doesn't help the cause.
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By the way, Joe really wants to know--especially now that it's getting dark earlier--and earlier if you're satisfied with how well you can see driving to work in the dark or driving home at night. If you're not satisfied, you do something about it for less than an hour or your time and $50 bucks or less. If you want to see what real people say about these (in short they LIGHT UP THE NIGHT, but won't last as long as stock), check this thread which gives contains a pretty good assortment of real people's experience with them. Sylvania has actually improved the design to make the more a bit longer lasting in recent years.
Let's thank Joe V. for keeping Y, our shiny strawberry, in our gun sights. Y is the Master, the PR is but the servant.