“Will it make us rich?”
“Will it make us famous?”
“Will it make us happy?”
Before I started my own public relations consultancy, I worked at larger marketing firms. At one of the agencies, we had a three-pronged new business philosophy. Before pursuing a new account, we’d apply the “rich, famous or happy” filter to any opportunity. If we couldn’t answer “yes” to at least one of the questions, we’d pass.
I took that with me into private practice, and have been using it for most of the 15 years I’ve been on my own. Lately, though, I’ve whittled those criteria down to one: “Will it make me happy?”
To put a slightly finer point on it, here are the sub-criteria I consider:
- The “who “is just as important as the “what” Prospective clients always want to know who their day-to-day contact will be. It’s a valid question. Nobody likes the old bait and switch (i.e., hire the principal, get the intern). That works both ways. I’ve found that, even if I’m not that excited about what I’ll be working on, if I’m excited about who I’ll be working with, it’s going to be golden.
- Do some good. Almost all of my clients do some sort of cause-related marketing. Either they’re non-profit organizations that are already making a contribution to society, or they’re for-profit companies that are willing to use their brand, people or money to help others. In my mind, it’s a win-win. It can also be a nice karmic cleanse.
- Knock it out of the park. In other words, can I produce on behalf of this client? Nothing gets the endorphins going like putting a win on the board – like a well-executed plan, the perfect media placement or a packed event. (Likewise, nothing makes those endorphins vaporize faster than a major league swing-and-a-miss.)
- Have some fun. My first real job (after mowing Tillie Wieman’s lawn) involved twirling a whistle and getting a tan. I was a lifeguard at a small community pool, working alongside some of my best friends. I’ve been chasing that “job joy” ever since. While it isn’t always easy, I think it’s important to at least try to recapture that employment enjoyment in everything I do. (Whistle twirling is optional.)
In the end, being rich and famous may have its advantages. But how many lavish homes, expensive cars, exotic trips, and personal valets do you need? (Ok, scratch that. I now realize this is not helping my argument.)
“Follow the money” is an iconic line in All the President’s Men. That may work for purposes of political intrigue. For everything else, though, I say, “follow the happiness” and you’ll never go wrong.
Gary Young is founder and principal of Gary Young Ink in Minneapolis. GYI’s specialty is happily generating impactful results for clients by telling their stories in creative and compelling ways through public relations and social media strategies.