You’ve heard about Sushi for Beginners. This post is about Sushi for PR Champions. It was inspired by the movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about the man behind a modest Sushi bar in Japan. Jiro Ono’s uncompromising approach earned his shop an unprecedented 3 Michelin star rating (which means it is worth a special trip to the country just to eat at the place).
I think the movie offers valuable lessons about how to reach for perfection and provide a quality product or service.
So I decided to write this post, which connects the ideas with the world of PR. Read on only if you really are interested in being the best. Jiro’s approach may seem severe. You may flinch as you read it and think they are impossible standards. But you don’t get to be the best by slacking.
To really appreciate these lessons watch the movie; here are my quick observations, interspersed with quotes from the movie in italics:
Love your work, and take it seriously
The words below could apply to PR, or any field, really.
Once you decide
on your occupation…
you must immerse yourself
in your work.
You have to fall in love
with your work.
Never complain about your job.
You must dedicate your life
to mastering your skill.
That’s the secret of success…
Be a perfectionist, sweat every detail
It’s essential to check every detail.
I make the sushi different sizes
depending on the customer’s gender.
If I made everybody’s the same size.
It would disrupt the pace of the meal.
So, I make the sushi a little smaller
for the ladies.
The first thing we do is memorize
the seating arrangement.
If Jiro notices a guest
using his left hand…
the next piece of sushi
will be placed on the left side.
So, you adjust accordingly
to that guest.
Whether you are writing a press release, approaching the media or executing a campaign, sweat every detail. E.g., here at Fusion, I tell the team “there’s no such thing as a draft – get it right, really nail it, the first time.”
This passage also speaks to the importance of tailoring your offering, or pitch.
Work hard, practice, repeat
We’re not trying
to be exclusive or elite.
It’s just about making an effort
and repeating the same thing every day.
[Jiro] sets the standard
He is always looking ahead.
He’s never satisfied with his work.
He’s always trying to find ways
to make the sushi better,
or to improve his skills.
Even now, that’s what he thinks
about all day, every day.
It is not about flash; Jiro has the discipline and focus of a Tibetan monk. Similarly, in PR it is important to hone and apply best practices through repetition (another good source on the topic is the book The Power of Habit).
Repetition, practice, and applying proven formulas does not need to be dull or formulaic… see the last point below.
Of course, you need talent
In this line of business…
if you take it seriously,
you’ll become skilled.
But if you want to make a mark
in the world, you have to have talent.
There are some
who are born with a natural gift.
The rest is how hard you work.
These things are no great revelation, but Jiro also talks about the importance of intrinsic motivation – something I addressed in my post on the PR Conversations blog.
It also takes years of training
When you work for Jiro
… you have to endure
ten years of training.
If you persevere for ten years…
You will acquire the skills
to be recognized as a first rate chef.
Ten years! To prepare raw fish! How long should it take to to learn all these things that the typical PR person is expected to handle?
Don’t be too quick to rush freshly minted PR strivers to the front lines; if you are just joining the profession, take the time to learn the craft before even thinking of the next rung.
Keep things simple
All of the sushi is simple.
It’s completely minimal.
Master chefs from around the world
eat at Jiro’s and say…
How can something so simple
have so much depth in flavor?”
If you were to sum up Jiro’s sushi
in a nutshell…
Ultimate simplicity leads to purity.
Jiro takes a Zen-like approach to simplicity. Similarly, the best PR ideas and stories are compelling, powerful and simple – they are easy to tell and understand.
Have great taste
In order to make delicious food,
you must eat delicious food….
you need to develop a palate capable
of discerning good and bad.
Without good taste,
you can’t make good food.
If your sense of taste is lower than
that of the customers,
how will you impress them?
How can you be good at PR if you don’t read or pay close attention to news? The best PR people have great taste – they develop a reporter’s instinct for a great story.
Know when to strike
Each ingredient has an ideal moment
Mastering the timing
of sushi is difficult.
It takes years of experience
to develop you intuition.
The sushi must be eaten immediately
after it is served.
Effective campaigns are not just about great stories but timing, too. Here again, it helps to have a reporters’ nose for a hot topic.
Dream big, innovate
The masters said that the history
of sushi is so long…
that nothing new could be invented.
They may have mastered their craft…
but there’s always room for improvement.
I created sushi dishes
that never existed back then.
I would make sushi in my dreams.
I would jump out of bed at night
My mind was bursting with ideas
The PR advice here is clear. Break out of the formula and find ways to innovate – on each campaign, and in the ways that you practice and apply PR. Care so much about these things that you dream about them.