Sunday night I was watched the finale of “Next Iron Chef” on the Food Network. For anyone that hasn’t been watching, the Food Network invited 10 chefs to compete for a spot to join Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, Mario Batali, Cat Cora, and Michael Symon as an Iron Chef on Iron Chef America.
The finale pitted Chef Jose Garces against Chef Jehangir Mehta. Without going through all the details, after each chef served his five dishes to the panel of judges, which included three current Iron Chefs, the feeling seemed to be that Mehta took more risks and was more creative, but in doing so failed in a couple of basic cooking areas. Garces on the other hand, nailed his dishes, but was criticized for not being as creative.
For some reason the judge’s conversation got me thinking about the PR/social media industry. Am I a creative risk taker like Mehta? Or do I play it safe, but do the basic things really, really well like Garces? What about the people I work with, which type are they? Is there a right answer? Sorta….
You, much like your company’s PR program, should master the basics of PR and social media down before moving on to the creative ideas. All too often it seems like companies go about that process backwards. They do a big, flashy idea, but don’t have the nuts and bolts in place for sustained success. If you’re great at the basic elements, then when you do try more creative ideas your likelihood of success is greater. If all your focus is on the flash you’re probably overlooking some basic elements of a program that are a must-have.
The other thing to consider is that those flashy, creative programs and ideas are oftentimes very risky. The chances of being deemed a success can be relatively low. For sustained success, your PR/social media program should result in a consistent increase in dialogue, awareness, sales, etc. If you have a huge spike driven by a flashy, creative idea (if it’s successful, of course), but then a big falloff, did you really accomplish anything? What does that do for the company’s objectives long term? And there’s always the chance that the idea you gambled on won’t succeed. To take a statement made during the Iron Chef finale by Iron Chef Michael Symon, (it went something like this, can’t remember it verbatim) “if you’re creative and fail, does that make you creative or does it make you a failure?”
Now of course I’m definitely not advocating always playing it safe and never getting creative. What I’m saying is you need to nail the basics before trying to get overly creative. Approach your program the right way. Start at the foundation and build up. Don’t construct the 46th floor and hope the lower 45 floors will take care of themselves as a result.