Stop treading, start swimming

I recently joined the masters swim group (a swim team for old folks) in my town, thinking it can help get me in even better...

I recently joined the masters swim group (a swim team for old folks) in my town, thinking it can help get me in even better shape for triathlon season and in top form for the Nautica New York City Triathlon this coming weekend. The 2,500-plus meter workouts have been great but I also learned that most of my strokes were “old school, outdated” and in desperate need of modernization. Who knew, besides Michael Phelps, that you were supposed to look for your toes and not dead ahead when swimming freestyle these days?

In a recent column, AdAge’s Jonah Bloom compiled a list of seven ways ad and media buying agencies could stave off commoditization in light of the changing media landscape and faltering economy. His column, and my masters swimming experience, serve as a stark reminder to PR agencies and our clients alike that we all need to continue to challenge our muscle memory steeped in convention and adopt new ways of managing reputations and building brands.

For example, our client Stryker Orthopaedics partnered with Orthopedics Today earlier this year to develop a series of thought provoking online blog posts that address pressing industry issues; on the other hand, its core competitors have gone radio silent in an era of increased scrutiny and regulation.

Two seemingly disparate, recent occurrences reminded me how quickly our skills can become obsolete and our value irrelevant if we don’t embrace, adopt, and practice newer ways of doing things. At the same time, while social media is an important part of the mix, let’s not overhype its role and be mindful of what comprises a great agency and great story telling: intelligence, creativity, courage, passion, and relationships.

Aaron Kwittken, CEO and managing partner, Kwittken & Co.

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