What the Cat and Mouse Strategy Teaches us about Publicity
By Mark Macias
Why does the cat always catch the mouse? When you think of how agile and quick a mouse can be, he should always be able to outmaneuver the cat. Yet, nearly 100 percent of the time, the cat will finish as victor.
That’s not just a fun question. It’s actually a way of thinking that applies to public relations and business.
First off, I don’t claim to be an expert on mice or cats. I have never owned a cat and I hate mice. On the surface, I would probably not be a person skilled at analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of mice and cats. But as a person who lives in Manhattan, and every New Yorker will tell you – “if you have mice, get a cat and the problem will go away.”
There must be some strategy behind a cat’s success ratio.
There is and here is how it applies to public relations and business.
What Cats and Mice Teach us about Public Relations
A cat traditionally studies its prey before it attacks. It tries to understand the mouse’s movements and agility in advance. The cat is more patient. It takes his time approaching the mouse, waiting for the right moment to pounce while the mouse is busy sniffing the ground.
In the world of public relations, you should study and understand the journalists you want to pitch because you only get one chance. If you fire off that story idea before it is completely developed, you risk losing an opportunity for coverage. Many clients want to see results quickly, and as a business owner, I understand. I want to see a high rate of return as well on my investments. But if the execution of the strategy is rushed and sloppy, you risk losing out on solid media placements.
Now let’s take a closer look at the mouse. I will never understand why he loses the battle against the cat. He is faster and more agile and should be able to run circles around the puffy paw. I’ve watched mice move on the streets of Manhattan. Trust me, I couldn’t catch a mouse on the streets but I guarantee you I could catch a cat if I needed to. The mouse – on the surface – has every natural talent to win the household game, but it doesn’t because he is afraid.
Fear of Failure Destroys PR Campaigns
Fear is another failing item that can’t be associated with public relations. A creative media strategy requires confidence in an idea and strength with the execution. You can’t be afraid of creative ideas when pitching reporters. Sure, I’ve come up with some crazy publicity stunts and not all of them worked. But a good majority did. If I was afraid of failure, I would have missed out on the home runs. The same applies to your business. You can’t be afraid like that little mouse.
Finally, the mouse fails because he doesn’t think. If you have observed any mouse in a kitchen after turning on the light, they don’t react to change well. Their bodies scramble without direction. It’s like they are immobilized by the sudden change in environment. As a publicist, you need to be able to adapt quickly to change. If you are getting multiple rejections from reporters than it is highly likely your strategy or media pitch is off and needs to adapt to the moment.
If you’re trying to succeed with media placements, you really do need to think like the cat but move like the mouse. If an idea doesn’t seem to be catching on, listen to the feedback of reporters. Are you missing an element with your idea? Does the reporter need more evidence to support the story? Be nimble and respond to their questions. Be like the mouse – fast, agile and quick to respond.
In the cartoon, Tom & Jerry, the mouse always won because he out-thought the big, slow cat. Of course, that is the land of fiction, but since the Tom & Jerry narrative was created by a real person, I can now understand why little Jerry won every time the two battled wits. The publicist or business that out-thinks the competition, usually wins.
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Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.