Are you knitting penguin sweaters?

Penguins at the Woodland Park ZooIt’s easy to fall into the habit of doing things that seem useful and productive, but turn out to be anything but. We do them with the best of intentions… but the one thing we don’t do is our due diligence.

Like knitting sweaters for penguins, which is back in the news again:

You’ve probably heard that penguins get covered in muck from oil spills, which makes them chilly. Thus, we should all take a break from infinity scarves and snail jumpers to knit sweaters for penguins. Not true! Put down those knitting needles!

As we mentioned when this story went around in 2011, there really have been calls for penguin sweaters from wildlife conservation groups. But response tends to be disproportionate, and organizations are flooded with seabird apparel, a fraction of which — if any — gets used. Plus, penguin advocates dispute whether the knitwear is a good idea to begin with.

— From’s “Please don’t knit a sweater for a penguin”

For whatever reason, communications is one of those professions chock-full of penguin sweaters: things we do because we’ve heard you’re supposed to, or because we’ve done them this way for years and nobody’s ever said “stop”.

So from time to time, line up your communications tasks, and cull the penguin sweaters — like news releases that never get picked up, brochures that don’t get read, videos that languish unwatched. Some of these many not be true penguin sweaters; they may just need better writing, more attractive design, more promotion or more strategic thought.

But now and then you’ll find some task that’s outlived its usefulness, and no longer drives your communications strategy forward. When you do, set the knitting needles aside and put your time (and yarn) to better use.

(By the way, have a look at the last sentence in that quote. Could the job title “penguin advocate” possibly be any cooler?)

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