Public Relations and the KISS Principle: Keep it Simple, Stupid!

By Jacqueline Meyler
The Hoffman Agency, Canada

Let’s back up a couple of years to when I was completing my undergrad degree.

College life was the good life. Go to class, study and repeat — maybe throw in a couple of party nights. Bland, but comfortably predictable. However, while college presented many attractive qualities, it still had its obstacles.

When it came to my French language and literature studies, my biggest obstacle came in the form of ridiculously long dissertations. Really? Twenty pages on the symbolism between two characters in a Haitian-set novel?

While I tried my hardest to always strive for excellence in content by producing fully formed thoughts (in French, nonetheless), I lacked the ability to successfully “fluff” out my content.

The struggle was real, but I was committed. Fast forward to my time in post-graduate PR school, where I’m told fluff should be avoided. First thing my professor told the class? The KISS Principle… Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Like many things in the world, most systems work best if they are kept simple. Adding in unnecessary complexities should be avoided.

This brings me to today’s agency work and a few pieces of advice that have helped me keep things simple. I encourage everyone to consider them, no matter at what level you find yourself:

  • Keep agendas brief: Agendas are meant to keep everyone on track. They are points for discussion. Leave the bullets broad, and let the team or client elaborate at the actual meeting. Many times when we try to fit too much into the agenda, we wind up reciting the exact same thing in the meeting. It’s like that person who reads the PowerPoint slides word for word – it’s just not necessary.
  • Craft concise client emails (unless otherwise needed): Sometimes I’ve seen emails sent out that run four paragraphs long, when they’ve could’ve been cut down to one. We are all busy, your client is as well. There are always exceptions, but for the most part, hit everything that needs to be said and get to the point faster. Your client (and teammates) will appreciate it.
  • Stay visual: Working on a blog post? Opt for a visual infographic that gets the point across with a little intro blurb for SEO purposes.
  • Avoid unnecessary edits: Everyone has his or her personal writing style, so avoid unnecessary edits. Before diving in to reach perfection, take a moment to check if that edit is an actual content problem, or if it’s merely a disagreement on writing style. This will be the most efficient use of your time and your client’s budget.
  • Keep pitches on point: Are you pushing the company or are you pushing the story by the company? Like your emails to the team and client, the media want pitches to be to the point. Is that opening paragraph necessary? Can those stats be in bullet form vs. paragraph form?
  • Get on the phone: Especially for internal work, by the time it takes you to write an email and wait for a response from your teammate, you could’ve already hung up the phone. Likewise, sometimes getting up and walking over to his or her desk can lead to an impromptu brainstorming situation — and a little bit of a stretch!

There’s a difference between being vague and keeping things tight. As PR pros, it is our job to keep things moving and get the point across in the simplest way. With that in mind, we should all take a small step back and quit trying to reinvent the wheel on systems that work well in the first place.

After all, less is always more, and simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

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