I don't mean that to be fatalistic. What I mean is what's worth having is not easy to get.
I hate to admit it probably as much as you do, but your father was right -- there are no shortcuts when it comes to getting something done right. And yes, folks, it applies to marketing, maybe more than usual.
There is good reading lately on this subject:
Andy Woolard says clients sometimes want copycat tactics -- whatever they are -- that they figure built a brand they have come to love. His point, and a good one, is that there's no cookie-cutter approach, obviously. What great brands have done is create something valuable and find a new and appealing way to reveal it. No shortcut there.
Ever since the viral marketing jag took hold, everyone wants to try it. Good idea -- when it works, it really works. Little carries more credibility than peer-to-peer referral (which is marketingspeak for "telling your friends"). John Wagner posted a couple of weeks ago (I'm delinquent) about not forcing word of mouth. You can't force it. You can prod it along, but if you don't have anything real, it'll die on the vine. No shortcut there, either.
Kami Huyse advocates doing your homework in advance by learning about the trends coming in PR. Very smart. If you're going to be considered a competent and leading practitioner, you have to spend time knowing what's coming.
(Aside: I hated using the word "leading" there because I can't stand reading all the press releases that include "a leading provider of...". Once I wrote, and now can't find, a frustration-fueled buzzword-crammed press release about the chicken crossing the road. It started something like: "Pavement Solutions, a leading provider of revolutionary, fully scalable and enterprise-adaptive poultry-traversing platforms, today announced yet another strategic alliance with gallus domesticus, culminating in the successful and ground-breaking breaching of the infrastructure serving the southern tier of Goat City." I wish I could find it.