Gumby: Mascot of Our Firm

In the 1950s and ‘60s, the green Gumby and his pal Pokey were TV fixtures as they joyfully lived the adventures kids dreamt of: going to the moon, jumping in and out of books’ fanciful tales, hanging out with people from far-off lands. Because Gumby was a Claymation™ creation, he was eminently flexible and had a special knack for getting in to, out of, and through fantastic and often-danger-filled escapades.

Gumby lives on in us.

Gumby’s power is much more than flexibility. Gumby is more than ever becoming key to success in whatever world you tool around in. The next time a colleague, friend or Aunt Bertha asks how you triumph in the face of unbelievable odds, tell them “Gumby.” If she runs off looking for the latest gadget codenamed for our little green hero, let her go. If on the other hand she asks what do you mean…?

Gumby is attitude. Snarky is so darn fashionable, as popular culture lauds Gawker and its cadre of follower blogs that pride themselves on carefully-crafted sarcasm and forever cynicism. Gumby is confident, ambitious and willing to get the job done—that’s the scintilla of “real Gumby.” Gumby is optimistic and focuses on solutions—not problems. You call it like it is … and then you are willing to get how others see it.

Gumby is action. Lazy is easy. Action is often strenuous and sometimes exhausting, but those who have Gumby (or saw him on TV) know that taking the effortless path rarely gets you where you need to be. Identifying nascent trends, for example, requires vigorous analysis of information from multiple sources, searching beyond your comfort zone.

Gumby is results. Ultimately, Gumby the flexible character was all about getting the job done—and well in a timely fashion—effectively using all tools available. Gone are the days when tasks came with a “when you can get to it” deadline. If you’re lucky enough to remember the office euphoria when IBM introduced Correcting Selectric then your head probably spins at the plethora of tools available to business folks in our day. These tools can help or hinder, and Gumby is knowing how to use them to deliver results that measurably impact a bottom line, whatever your department.

Gumby learns. In each of his escapades, Gumby learned from those around him. He sought information and explanation, and had fun doing it. Today, we’re bombarded by data from more sources than we can count, and those who embrace Gumby invest the energy to constantly expand their wealth of knowledge.

Those who have Gumby participate. They do not sit idly by and watch from the sidelines, these are those who jump in and use wit and intellect to get ANY job done. They overcome the most troublesome glitches and find innovative solutions. Gumby isn’t yes-or-no; it’s how and why.

Ask anyone from the Air Force who will tell you without blinking that on day two, someone told them no matter what, “Remember that nothing is a problem.”

In the military they say it best: Semper Gumby!

3 Reasons Why You Should Love Data: a PR #protip

Early in my career, I’d declare I’m part of the creative class, in part, because of my dislike for math. Today, I still wouldn’t trade my career for anything. But I’ve learned to love math.

The silos between art and science dissolved long ago. And every public relations professional should love math and, more specifically, data. Here are just three reasons.

1) Inform Strategy: Since hugging it out with data, I’ve been able to show clients exactly why I’m proposing a specific editorial strategy. It’s all thanks to insights mined from search queries and social data.

Searches tell us what content an audience is looking for and social data tells us what content they’re talking about. This is just one way data can inform strategy.

2) Create Content: We’ve been talking about this for years. And you may love or hate infographics at this point, but they remind us how data can fuel very visual content. Data is everywhere, it doesn’t have to come from primary/expensive research.

Mappos is my all-time favorite example of how Zappos uses, without violating customer privacy, the zip code and item numbers from each order to create killer content.

3) Measure Success: Out of respect, I should just put a picture of Katie Paine here and call it a day. But first, I’ll remind everyone in this data-laden world, the key is not just measuring…it’s measuring success.

That requires agreeing on what success looks like before you get started. And there is a difference between progress metrics and success metrics. Progress metrics show a plan is working. Success metrics show the plan worked.

4) Optimize Content: A fourth reason? Hey, I told you I loved math, I didn’t say I was good at it. We’ve discussed the need to tap data throughout the research, plan, execute and measure process.

Data is available throughout the entire process and it allows us to iterate what we’re doing to help ensure our success. Take content marketing for example.

Once we publish our client’s (data-informed) content, we support it with paid discovery to drive audience to it more quickly than organic search. Performance data from this is layered with web analytics to see how the content is reasonating with our audience.

A follow-up check of search and social data makes sure nothing new has emerged. And each batch of content improves based on what you’ve learned from the previously published stories.

Art x Science = Innovation

When I started in content marketing, it was called custom publishing. And the big difference between then and now is how we’ve moved from 100 percent art-driven projects to projects driven by a mix of art and science.

Hopefully you’ve seen above that by tapping art and science, you’ll make something better than either side of your brain could create by itself.

Kevin Dugan, @prblog

photo credit: B Tal via photopin cc

Hemingway App Fights Bad Pitches

When it comes to media relations, the analogy about a chain only being as strong as its weakest link applies. Your media list may be solid, but if your pitch is ham-fisted it doesn’t matter. This applies to the entire cycle.

The Hemingway App is one tool you can use to make sure your pitch is as simple and clear as possible. As you’ll see below, it points out the readability of whatever you cut and paste into the site, or you can compose on the fly. It also tracks long, complex sentences, passive voice and other common errors.

Unclear writing is color coded and the app gives tips on how to improve each passage. If an adverb shows up, for example, the app recommends that a “verb with force” take its place. Papa would have wanted it that way.

The site is as smart as it is simple. We’re hoping in the future it can used with Word, Google Docs or Evernote. Until then it’s available online and for the desktop (Windows and Apple).

The app’s namesake possessed a writing style described as “lean, hard, athletic narrative.” The end result of this approach to writing is the ability to tell more using less words. And that will make this link in your chain as strong as steel.

We put this post through the app and improved it. Cut and paste your last pitch into the Hemingway App and see what it tells you.

Why You Should Read Spin Sucks: a BOOK REPORT

Spin Sucks by Gini Dietrich

Spin Sucks, is a much-needed, pragmatic explanation of the changing communication landscape.

The book’s author, Gini Diterich, dives into this changing landscape and clearly articulates how its changed — without hyperbole, fifty cent words or, of course, spin. The book is practical, clearly written and helpful as a result.

It’s no surprise Dietrich hails from the Midwest…we’re known for this kind of counsel. The fact that Spin Sucks is written for clients should encourage, not discourage, practitioners from reading it. This ultimately helps the reader better articulate how communication has changed to their own clients.

 

Spin Sucks Basics
As you can imagine, social media, content marketing and search are all topics of discussion in Spin Sucks. Each chapter includes plenty of explanation, how-to instruction and great examples to support its assertions. It is a quick read with 10 chapters, organized into four sections, comprising the just under 150 page book. And it’s written in a way that you can read it in the old-school, linear fashion or get all millennial up in here and jump around based on your interest or needs.

A Point of Contention
The only thing I disagree with in Spin Sucks is Dietrich’s classification of social media as shared media — a fourth silo along with paid, owned and earned media.

Social media has disrupted our industry. Social sharing has become so critical to what we do, it’s becoming a seamless part of communication. And there are examples of paid, owned and earned on nearly any social platform today. This and the fact that technology convergence has been eliminating media silos for years, something I’ve promoted for some time, is the basis for why I do not carve out social media separately.

In her defense, Dietrich notes in Spin Sucks that consumers are distinguishing less and less between “the four types of media.” And that “the lines between communication, marketing, ads, sales, customer experience, product development and human resources will become blurred.”

The bottom line is I think the lines are already blurred and this assumption didn’t change the validity of anything Dietrich proposes in her book.

The Hybrid Skills Trend
One topic Spin Sucks touches on, a trend worthy of its own book, is how changing technology and consumer habits are pushing the need for more hybrid skill sets (inclusive of traditional and non-traditional communication skills).

“Today, public relations professionals have to be knowledgeable about web development, search engine optimization, mobile marketing, content marketing and more.”

Work culture is shifting to address this trend. But things are changing so rapidly the academic world still has some work to do. As the pace of change continues to accelerate, we must be willing to test, learn and iterate what we do more frequently and consistently than we have done in the past.

Dietrich speaks to this as well, noting “your culture must be about experimentation, and you must be willing to take some risk.” This is critical because more than ever as an individuals biggest skill may become the ability to “tolerate failure, quickly pivot and try again.”

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Dietrich’s mantra throughout this book is to “remember, it’s a marathon and not a sprint.” And our industry needs to be chanting this mantra.

The key is to be able to show clients why  it’s a marathon, and to ultimately follow up with the results this approach will yield.

Click here for a video about the book. And for more Spin Sucks in general, click here to dig into the community.

 

Kevin Dugan, @prblog