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The Power of Reinvention

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If you’ve been a faithful reader of this blog, you may know that I’m a big, BIG Orioles fan. Have been since that fateful day in June…or what it July?...in 1979 when the O’s third baseman Doug DeCinces blasted a sudden death, 9th inning homer off Detroit Tigers reliever Dave Tobik to cap a major rally, giving the Birds a 6-5 win, and officially “giving birth” to what will forever be known as “Orioles Magic.”

Here, you can check out the moment right here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1gPTfaUcIc.

Anyway, I often follow local Orioles blogs and websites, occasionally posting, mostly searching for news about the next big Orioles signing, trade, etc. Today, the Orioles began their march to glory in October with the first spring training game of 2014, beating the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2.

In the 6th inning of this game, an Orioles pitcher named Eddie Gamboa came out of the bullpen to strike out two Rays and hold the opposition scoreless.

So…?

Mr. Gamboa is a wonderful example of an important mindset for PR practitioners may wish to cultivate.

After a VERY brief cup of coffee with the big league a season or two ago, it became clear to Mr. Gamboa, and more to the point, Orioles management, that his stuff just didn’t translate to full-time major leaguer.

Stuck with the “AAAA” tag, i.e. better than AAA, but not quite ready for “the Show,” Gamboa was faced with a decision.

Chuck it all and start selling insurance, or become a fuil-time knuckleballer.

While people may ooh and ahh over the 100+ mph fastball, the crackling curve, the amusement park slip and slider, THE most toughest pitch in baseball is the correctly thrown knuckleball.

A bit of a misnomer, as the pitch isn’t thrown with the knuckles, but off the finger tips (thus raising the knuckles of one’s fingers on the ball, hence the name), the idea is to throw the ball with as little spin on it as possible.

Why? Well, here’s something I learned by watching HISTORY or DISCOVERY or whatever, looking at what happens when you fire a silver bullet (you know, if you’re hunting werewolves).

As a lead bullet flies through and out the gun barrel, the scoring within the barrel is imprinted on the bullet as lead is soft. This spiraling helps the bullet to spin and spin straight—hence in football, the quarterback who “throws a perfect spiral”—so you can hit a target with fair accuracy. Silver, however, is lot harder; thus, little scoring occurs as the bullet goes down the barrel. This means LESS SPIN on the bullet, causing it to WOBBLE and go gosh knows where exactly.

Which brings us back to the knuckleball. Similarly, since it does not spin, it wobbles and will move about depending on what the surrounding air currents are doing. This means even the PITCHER isn’t exactly sure where the ball is going to end up.

You know it’s a good pitch when the batter KNOWS WHAT’S COMING and STILL can’t hit it.

So that’s what Eddie Gamboa set out to do. To reinvent himself as a knuckleball pitcher. That meant going all the way back down to the lowest levels of the minors, taking some hits, and combating the desire to go back to throwing his other pitches.

Not an easy thing to do. If the knuckleball were a simple pitch to master, EVERY pitcher would throw one. But it isn’t. It is VERY hard to throw and to throw for a strike.

Okay, we’re more than a page in, what’s the point?

The point is that sometimes we have to make a decision about where we are with a project, with a client, with a campaign and have to make a scary decision.

To stop. To totally change gears. To let go of what you’ve done already because it isn’t working and reinvent the project. Reinvent the tact with your client. Reinvent your campaign. Maybe reinvent yourself (and goodness knows in the past 10 years with the rise of the internet and social media, MANY a PR person has had to do just that to stay topical, to stay effective, i.e. snail-mail-faxes-out, Facebook-Twitter-YouTube-in.)

That’s scary. That may mean looking like you didn’t know what you were doing in the first place to the client, to your associates. It may very well cost MONEY to stop investing in a particular strategy to “toss it all” and “go back to the drawing board” (pick the cliché of your choice).

It takes courage. No one likes to admit that you didn’t have the right stuff, that maybe you missed something, you should have planned better, you shoulda-woulda-coulda. And in today’s society, where we are SO in tune to the concept of BLAME, reinvention is a significant challenge.

But it can be done. Just look at Mr. Gamboa. His knuckler is knuckling right now and he’s getting out big leaguers in spring training after taking lumps in the lower minors last year.

Sometimes you have to go back to basics. Sometimes you have to start over. It’s about EVALUATION, a major element of public relations. If something isn’t working, to be able to face that, and then, do something positive about it. Go Orioles!

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