Chicken fingers, focus, and PR success

I can’t get chicken fingers out of my head. And there’s a PR success lesson in that.

I don’t even like chicken fingers that much. And I think it’s a terrible product name – makes me think of chicken feet . . . very unappetizing.

But a restaurant chain called Raising Cane’s has grown to 600 stores and projects $3 BILLION in sales this year . . . by selling ONLY chicken fingers. Okay, they also sell toast, fries, and coleslaw. That’s it.

When you browse the corporate website, their narrow focus on chicken fingers is borderline comical. And it’s been that way since their founding in 1996.

Think of all the fads that have come and gone (and come and stayed) since then. Wings. Boneless wings. Salads. Specialty sandwiches. Milkshakes. Cookies. Breakfast. Raising Cane’s sells none of those things.

It’s a perfect illustration of a key success principle that many PR pros overlook or even push back on.

Many in our line of work pride themselves on being generalists – being pretty good at a lot of aspects of communications, or being versatile across industries. And that CAN work – I mean, sticking with the fast food analogy, McDonald’s and Wendy’s do great. But the competition is fierce, and being all things to all people means you spread out your energy across many activities and struggle to perfect your craft.

But when you narrow your focus, you not only get really good at that one thing, but you stand out like a beacon to the clients and bosses looking for that one thing.

Like independent PR pro Judy Kalvin states on her LinkedIn bio: I help creative services firms get massive media coverage that makes them the agency of choice.

If you’re an accounting firm or a shoe brand, you keep looking. But if you’re a creative services firm, you know you’re in the right place. Judy has the luxury of developing personal relationships with all the key journalists and influencers in her space. Being specialized makes that feasible.

It’s the same if you’re in-house. You can specialize by industry and position yourself as a “Web3 PR pro,” for example. Or by function, such as a media relations expert or crisis comms specialist.

Specialization is the principle that has allowed me to – pardon me for being candid here – be the best in the world at my chosen field. Ten years ago when I was about to quit my full-time job, I considered starting a small PR agency. But I already knew lots of great agency owners. I was also interested in the field of corporate learning & development. But the world already had enough motivational speakers and corporate trainers.

So I ended up gravitating to “coaching and training PR pros on how to land more media coverage.” It’s way easier to be the best at something when you’re the only one doing it. 🙂

Find your version of chicken fingers – and stick with it – and you’ll be the best, too.

This article was originally published on May 4, 2022

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