How Calvin and Hobbes is the Perfect Analogy For PR

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  • December 11, 2015
  • Joey Held

The 20th anniversary of the final strip of Bill Watterson’s masterpiece Calvin and Hobbes is coming up at the end of the month. It’s far and away my favorite comic strip, and really, it’s better than most books I’ve read, too. If you’re also a C&H fan, you understand how amazing it is. There’s such a delightful juxtaposition of Calvin as both a six-year-old kid and a thoughtful savant, creating art from snowmen, imagining entire worlds made up of dinosaurs, and showing a political side in his update polls criticizing his father’s worthiness of being named “Dad.”

And if you’re not a fan, well…this is a good place to start. You see, Calvin and Hobbes can be applied to a ton of different areas of life. PR is no exception. Read on to see how a child and a stuffed tiger can help PR professionals in their everyday tasks and long-term goals.

Dream Big

Throughout the series, Calvin has many different alternate aliases. There’s Tracer Bullet, the private detective. Stupendous Man is a superhero who’s adept at saving the day, even if he has trouble spelling his own name. And of course, there’s no shortage of strips with Calvin portrayed as a dinosaur, or even just someone who’s grown to gigantic levels.

But Calvin’s alter ego of Spaceman Spiff is the best example of what dreaming big can do for you. Despite finding himself in less than ideal situations, he never stops imagining how he’ll find a way out and become stronger thanks to the experience.

In PR, you really are only limited by your imagination. We work in an industry that is constantly shifting, and tactics that were tried and true just a few years ago are completely different today. It’s easy to go with “the way we’ve always done it,” but the best results come from thinking big. Even if things don’t work out perfectly, you’ll learn and adjust for next time. Besides, it’s not like you’re going to be stuck in outer space forever.

Try New Things

Since we’re based in Austin, we don’t have the chance to play in the snow (though INK West in Denver, we expect to see some snow angels soon!). But one of the longer-running gags in Calvin and Hobbes is Calvin’s determination to build the craziest snowmen possible. There’s an entire gallery of his top snow creations, and it’s a testament to his ability of trying out new ideas and seeing what works. In some cases, a creation “works” if it sufficiently grosses out his parents.

This concept of trying new things is especially true on social media. If you can A/B test your posts and tweets, you’ll see what works best for certain audiences. Of course, you’ll always be tweaking, but perhaps one segment responds well to images, while another is more apt to engaging with nostalgic posts. But you’ll never know unless you try. 

Make Sacrifices

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How are your eyes still dry right now?! A successful PR professional works well within a team. There are times when you’ll have to pitch in for a client you don’t normally work with, or when you may be called upon to help out with something that isn’t your specialty. Instead of griping about it, roll up your sleeves and get to work. Who knows? You may even learn a new skill that’ll help for the rest of your career.

This goes with client interaction, as well. Sometimes your visions might not align entirely, so the key is finding a balance that leaves everyone happy. Maybe that fancy infographic you designed needs a little less red in it. It’s okay to make concessions here and there, especially when the end result will benefit from it.

Give Back

At INK, we’re fortunate to be doing work we love with people we love to do it with. And it’s an honor to do work with clients doing social good. Our work with the Gazelle Foundation provides clean water to residents of Burundi, and Komen Austin continues to raise money for cancer research, treatment and support. We’ve also done several volunteer efforts individually and as an office, from helping with flood relief efforts to buying Christmas presents for families in need.

Even if you don’t work with clients like this, take the time to volunteer and give back, either to your community or globally. It’s an amazing feeling to touch someone else’s life, and nothing you do is too small.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

You have the perfect pitch crafted, guaranteed to get a response. You hit Send, and it’s a wonderful feeling. But wait…is that a typo in the second sentence?

Or perhaps you’re creating a blog post, and you’re trying to find the right word to describe how happy you are. Jubilant? Exuberant? Delighted? Maybe simply “happy”, but in bold letters? You spend hours agonizing over it, and the next thing you know, you’ve missed lunch, four meetings, and it’s time to go home.

First of all, relax. We do important work and it helps our clients thrive. But that editor you pitched? If you’re human and relatable and have something to say, they won’t care about a typo. And that word you spent so long thinking about it ceased to exist? Your blog was full of good ideas–that’s what people will take away.

Now get out there and spread those good ideas. Calvin sums it up perfectly in that final strip. He says to his ol’ buddy Hobbes: “It’s a magical world…let’s go exploring!”

Other good stuff in here