There are few things I love more than watching a good movie – a movie that really makes you think or has you dissecting all the details afterwards. I often find myself coming out of a movie thinking, “If the main character would have just done THIS, everything could have been avoided!” This could be because I’ve viewed myself as a movie critic my whole life, or it could be because I work in PR.
If an awful event in a movie blows up on the news, I start thinking about the people behind the scenes, like the celebrity’s publicist who has to deal with the backlash on social media, or the campaign team that has to regroup after their candidate gives a terrible speech.
There are some films that combine my love for the movies and PR and reveal key lessons that we as PR practitioners can learn from and actually use in our jobs. Below are just a few of my favorites.
Lesson: Be transparent and avoid covering up the facts. The truth has a way of coming out.
“Bombshell” was especially interesting to me because it shows that sometimes, the PR crisis actually comes from the media itself. “Bombshell” tells the true story of women working at Fox News and how they exposed CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. The reporters start to become the headlines as they risk everything to expose the truth about what was really happening at one of the most powerful news networks in the U.S. As Fox News attempts to cover up the sexual harassment claims, the truth eventually comes out, with more than 20 women accusing Ailes, forcing his resignation.
In PR, we know transparency and morality is key to doing our jobs. Covering up the facts of a crisis will only result in more credibility lost and ruined relationships with stakeholders. In a crisis, it is critical that all information released is accurate and truthful.
Lesson: This movie teaches us two lessons: 1.) Sometimes, the media will create a narrative for you, and 2.) Get creative and look for new ways to use content, even if that means creating the content yourself.
Even though I love Tom Holland, the original 2002 Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” will always hold a special place in my heart. Who could forget Peter Parker’s eccentric editor who openly calls Spider-Man a menace to society, constantly smearing him on the front page of the Daily Bugle? We know Spider-Man is anything but; however, we in PR also know that sometimes, the media will create a narrative for you if you don’t get in front of the story yourself.
In this case, there wasn’t much Spider-Man could do to own the narrative, but in our case, we always communicate to clients to deliver information in a timely manner, especially if a crisis is involved, so you can get ahead of the story.
“Spider-Man” also shows us how to go above and beyond to deliver compelling content for a story, even if that means capturing the content yourself. Peter Parker positions his camera at the perfect angle to grab shots of Spider-Man in action to give to the Daily Bugle. Even though he has an unfair advantage that we in PR would not have when capturing images of a masked vigilante, we often have to attend events for clients to gather visuals and video. We know the content needs to be meaningful and engaging to share with media or post on social media, and we have the eye that it takes to capture those creative shots.
Movie: Iron Man
Lesson: Prepare your client in advance prior to media interviews or press conferences.
Can you tell I like Marvel movies? At the end of the first “Iron Man” movie, Tony Stark is preparing to hold a press conference to address an “incident” at Stark Industries. Instead, he completely goes off script and reveals his identity as Iron Man, causing mass chaos among the media.
It can be argued that Tony was being truthful with his admission, but it also shows the importance of preparing your client before they speak in front of the media. It’s critical to have your key messaging points outlined and shared with your client before their interview, keeping the details concise and clear. Include language they would actually use so they’re able to remember the points when the interview starts (and hopefully stick to the script).
Movie: Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
Lesson: Plan your media event with organization, details, and of course, the truth.
Everyone knows the disaster that is Fyre Festival – the most talked about festival experience of 2017, but for all the wrong reasons. Fyre Festival was advertised as an elite, glamorous party on an exclusive island. Leading up to the event, only the most popular celebrities were endorsing it, posting a simple orange tile on their social media with a mysterious caption using the hashtag #FyreFestival. The social media campaign increased awareness and the curiosity of millennials everywhere.
Fyre Festival taught us the effectiveness of using social media and influencers to promote your event, but it also showed the importance of following through with your event using organization and details while meeting your audience’s expectations. When the crowd of 8,000 arrived at Fyre Festival, they were greeted with wet mattresses on the ground of disaster relief tents and meals of cheese slices on bread — nothing at all like the high end party they were promised. When working with your client on a promotional event, consider what you can realistically pull off, and advertise accordingly.
Movie: Jerry Maguire
Lesson: Be genuine, act in the best interest of your client, and perform your work with integrity.
The PR lessons from this ‘90s classic still ring true today. When top sports agent Jerry Maguire is fired from his cutthroat sports agency after having a moral epiphany, he tries to make it on his own as an independent agent. Despite his financial success with his former agency, he didn’t feel inspired by his job and wanted to work in a business where personal relationships were valued above all. He saw the dishonesty taking place in sports management and chose to start fresh by doing right by his clients.
After a few initial struggles at the start of his new venture, Jerry forms a special relationship with the one client who stuck with him, a relationship based on trust, honesty and looking out for his client’s best interests. Ultimately, his ethical way of doing business succeeds. Operating this way is essential to success in PR. We know that in order to do our best work, it’s important to form genuine relationships with our clients, the media and our teammates.
What do all these PR lessons seem to have in common? In order to effectively communicate a client’s message or promote a client’s brand, we must perform that work with integrity and honesty above all else, with a keen eye for organization and detail. We live that through our value-driven work at Dittoe PR. Read more about our vision and values here and our service offerings here.