Are you trying too hard?

Seth Godin has an interesting work in progress called Levels of Effort in relation to marketing.  The four levels are:

  • no effort: hobbyists or wannabes who never really get anything done,  
  • right effort: effective because exactly what is required has been done,
  • too much effort: the hard-seller who spams and over-uses any and every technique,
  • no (apparent) effort: those who don’t appear to try, but just get it right 

This last category is the one that interests Godin – as he feels it is confident and attracts others from the “power it projects”.   This isn’t about success because it is in the right place, reflecting best practice, or getting the 1% return on a mass mailing.

Rather it is about hitting a zeitgeist – having a reputation that speaks for itself.  The same thinking could be applied to public relations.

I also think it applies to PR students.  At a meeting of the assessment working group for the qualifications this week, we were discussing how successful PR submissions are more than the sum of the parts of, for example, when assessing a press release task. 

Of course there are some students who put in no effort – they might be lucky and pass, but probably won’t.  Others put in the right effort, follow the exact rules and do just what is required – gaining a strong pass, maybe a merit.  Some, put in too much effort – every bell and whistle – and often end up missing the pass mark.  The real stars are those who don’t appear to try but deliver really interesting work – sometimes it doesn’t even tick the boxes, but every marker agrees it is an excellent assignment.

What I’m left wondering is can this “it” factor be taught or learned or is it like “cool”, just something you know when you see it?

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

4 thoughts on “Are you trying too hard?”

  1. Our lecturer used to always say, if you have warning bells going off in your head then their is probably something wrong. I remember submitting a piece to a newspaper thinking och I’m just being silly, it’s ok. But it wasn’t and the part I was having warning bells about was subbed into something else.

    I think listening to the wee voice in your head comes with practice and confidence, but I also think age comes into it too. I think once you reach a certain age your’re more intune with yourself and realise that your inner voice is trying to tell you something. But I guess some people might not experience this warning bell stuff and think everything is hunky dory.

    So those people who have everything included in a paper but missed the pass mark maybe didn’t think they had overloaded it at all.

    Do I sound like a dinosaur?

  2. Practice and experience – as well as self-awareness drawn from reflection on your work – definitely help. I don’t think that having experience makes you a dinosaur – be proud you hatched from the egg a while ago.

  3. I do hope the assessment working party was fun! On the topic of CIPR qualifications, any of your students doing projects on public sector behaviour change might want to have a look at the Carrots and Sticks report mentioned here (shameless plug). It’s from 2003 but I hadn’t come across it before. That makes it new, in the same way as the Richard Hammond crash pictures were new this weekend!

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