Public Relations 2013: What qualifies as unique?

Becca Grober, Intern, Shank Public Relations Counselors

First off, I would like to introduce myself as the newest intern at Shank Public Relations Counselors. I’m Becca and I am a senior in my last semester at Ball State University. This is my fourth internship experience. I am an avid reader and like to pretend that I’m the next great chef.

While at Shank Public Relations Counselors my goal is to do something different with social media. Every Monday, we will pose a new question on Twitter and Facebook. We hope our followers, and others, will respond. On Wednesday, we will post our response on the Shank Public Relations Counselors blog. Friday, we will feature the most interesting answers. The goal is to start a conversation because after all, that’s what social media is all about.

Let’s start with something that I have been lectured about before at previous internships: the word “unique”. Unique is a word thrown around constantly. By definition, unique means to have no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable. It can’t be qualified.

So, are any of our ideas really unique? The answer is probably no. For a concept, idea or strategy to be unique, it must be one of a kind. Most likely what you plan to do has already been done before. That’s not to say that it’s not a great idea or it won’t be successful. All that it means is that it is not truly unique.

In public relations, our best brainstorming is done through research. Inspiration often comes from others’ work and strategy. Picking and choosing pieces of many plans is how we develop our own plans. Our inspiration comes from others. We choose what works best for our client and create a strategy for their needs. While sometimes our combination may be unique, the individual parts don’t quite fit the bill of “unique”…they’ve probably been done before in one form or another.

Imitation can be considered the greatest form of flattery. When utilizing other’s ideas for your own planning, you are telling them that you admire their work. You’ve seen something successful and think to yourself, “Could that work for me?” Not everything in one plan will work the same in another. We transfer ideas to create the perfect equation for our client.

In that rare instance you may run across something that is “unique”, think about this: If there truly is only one of that thing, or the idea has only been used once, then it might mean that it’s not very good. When something works, it catches like wildfire. Everyone wants to say that they were part of the first wave. So, if it didn’t catch, maybe it’s because it didn’t work.

Job hunting in an ocean of “unique”

As I begin my job hunt I find the word “unique” around nearly every corner. Whether it’s employers looking for “unique” candidates or potential employees boasting about how “unique” they are, you can’t quite run away from the word.

If you are a potential employee utilizing the word “unique” or even the phrase “new ideas” in your cover letter, think twice. What new or unique ideas can you truly bring to the table? You’re presenting yourself to an organization that has most likely been around for a while. Have you thought of something they haven’t thought of or done yet? It is possible, but present your idea in a positive way. Think of it as something supplementary and not brand new.

On the other end of the spectrum are those employers who attempt to find the only unique job candidate to ever exist. The focus is lost in translation. An employer should look for individuals with skills and ability. The candidate should have knowledge of the industry and skills to match. The hope is to find someone who stands out, but is a good fit for the organization.

So what does this mean for the often misused, descriptive word? That’s up to you. I suggest we eliminate the word in public relations. Brainstorm with your employees. What exactly is your brand? How do you describe the company? How would others describe you? That’s how you should sell yourself as an organization. In the end though, you as the professional have to make the choice for yourself:

The question is not all that unique. What are your thoughts?