On a recent blog posting on Edelman Digital’s site, author Dave Fleet argues that new hires looking to break into agencies are describing themselves as a “strategist” before they’ve earned the title in a way to “avoid learning about critical elements of a communications function.”
Titles in the PR and social media industry often times can be superfluous, especially when words like “social media” and “strategy” are involved. Many folks who have the phrase “social media” in their title, for instance, wind up doing what is actually more like traditional media relations pitching—it just involves blogs instead of newspapers and radio shows.
Fleet’s main argument is that “you can’t be an effective strategist until you’ve got some experience to rest behind it.” It’s important for account level staff to learn from their mistakes and to see strategy plans written by more senior leaders and see how they work. In other words, “there’s a lot more to strategy than just idea creation” according to Fleet.
While his main argument is sound,even if a bit more pointed and argumentative than necessarily needed, it’s probably not best to call a new hire looking to enter the industry a “punk.”
It’s easy to see many new hires leaving college, being told by college professors and guidance counselors that they need to market themselves, and settling on a generic, but fancy-sounding title like “strategist.”
At the same time, it would likely benefit those who really deserve the title of “strategist” – for sake of argument, let’s say SAE and VP and above – to do some “punk” work from time to time.
How many times have we been told by senior leadership, whether it’s internal or from an external client, to execute on an idea they developed that doesn’t necessarily have all the elements needed for a successful campaign? A stunt event without a clear message? A PR pitch that’s generic and too self-serving? The invention of a holiday or a world record that nobody will be interested in?
As you advance in your career, you have to give up your time to activities that are often left to the punks—media pitching, event support, press release writing, etc. It’s not necessarily an arrogance thing—it might just be a time and budget issue.
However, those experiences are the kinds of things that can help you develop a sound strategy that is gleamed from what worked and what doesn’t. Just as there’s a lot more to strategy than idea generation as Fleet says, there’s something crucial to developing good strategy: experience. Just as the inexperienced may struggle with developing sound strategies, so too can the experienced if they give all the punk work – pitch writing, media relations, etc. – to the punks.
If you want to be a good strategy, the best strategy for achieving that, is to be the one that has to carry it out from time to time.
About the Author
Alan Danzis is a Vice President, Social Media Strategy at Ketchum PR, and his opinions here are his own and do not reflect those of Ketchum. He loves guest blogging but has no blog of his own–so follow him on Twitter at @adanzis. He currently lives in – and loves – Hoboken, NJ.
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