An old saying invariably pops into my head whenever I launch into one of my “What if? Why? Who said?” routines… “Curiosity killed the cat.”
I can remember, as a kid, waiting to see if lightning was going to strike my cat du jour as it prowled around the house poking its nose into every available nook and cranny. Never happened.
By the same token…and I’ve told this story countless times in my PR classes at Curry College, where I ride herd over our undergraduate Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses…I somehow managed to not kill myself once by sticking a metal nail file into a wall socket, curious to see what would happen.
Blew all the fuses in the house and turned, according to my Mother, a beautiful dark blue. But here I am today, more than a half-century later, telling the story once again.
Curiosity Does NOT ‘Kill the Cat’!
While I don’t necessarily recommend pulling my toddler-centric stunt, I do wholeheartedly encourage and support childlike curiosity…especially for those of you who are thinking about focusing your energy and effort on public relations as a career path.
Ours is a profession based on anticipating the unasked questions or on imagining new and novel ways to get the public’s attention for a client’s product or service.
What worked yesterday is “old news” today.
As my colleague Larry Weber says in his excellent book, “The Digital Marketer,” “In markets characterized by intense competition, today’s delight attribute becomes tomorrow’s performance attribute, and next week’s basic attribute (p. 121).”
Meeting the Legend
I had the good fortune years ago to know the “Father of Public Relations,” Edward L. Bernays, and I introduced him at a PRSA event to my Chinese wife who was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and who speaks…at last count…some six languages.
Bernays…at the time in his early 90s…spent the better part of an evening chatting with her…no…make that grilling her on her background, her interests, her perceptions of America and Americans, and on and on and on.
Simple childlike curiosity…the hallmark of a gentleman who both defined our profession and set the standard for us all. And, to further disprove the saying…he lived for roughly another decade.
Always Be Questioning
Our challenge as public relations professionals is to always be questioning.
This applies both to the programs we develop and manage for our clients and to our own professional skills and knowledge. As I tell my students, “Never stop learning.”
A healthy curiosity ensures that you will be as knowledgeable as possible when it comes to the latest concepts and techniques that define and guide our profession.
After all, curiosity doesn’t kill the cat…or the PR programming. But inattention to developing or changing situations just might.