By Bethany Miller
Fall. That means the leaves are changing, there is a crisp chill in the air, and we’re all seeing the world through pumpkin-spiced colored glasses. Fall also means it’s time for Halloween and, for some of us, it’s prime time to curl up on the couch, turn the lights down, and watch our favorite spooky movies.
And as it turns out, some of our favorite Halloween flicks can teach us a lot about succeeding in the PR Industry. Read on…if you dare!
Admit it, if you’re millennial of a certain age, you love this movie. Every year we find ourselves rooting for Max Dennison and company to defeat the delightfully wicked (and musically talented!) Sanderson Sisters before the black flame candle burns out and the witches “suck the lives out of all the children of Salem!”
The kids’ 20th-century knowledge combined with the supernatural wisdom of a 300-year-old feline allow them to escape the clutches of the Sanderson Sisters, and–spoiler alert–turn the witches to dust, ensuring that they never return to Salem. If not for their cooperation, teamwork, and ultimately self-sacrifice, the kids would not have succeeded in their mission, making this a much less family-friendly Disney movie.
However your marketing team is structured, remember we all have different roles and make worthwhile contributions. Of course, there will be instances where working independently may be required, but when you’re a part of a team, make sure you play your part, help your coworkers, root for each other, and occasionally take one for the team.
It’s never fun to find yourself in an “every man for himself” work culture, and that is certainly true in public relations. Give credit where credit is due, and lift each other up. You, your team, and your client/company will reap the rewards.
Lesson: Be authentic, but remember your manners.
Our favorite “ghost with the most” was certainly the life (or death!) of the party, but he wasn’t exactly…well behaved. While we ultimately love him for his, shall we say, quirky personality and interesting wardrobe choices, I think we can agree that he belongs in the afterlife waiting room.
Beetlejuice, believe it or not, teaches us a valuable lesson about media relations. It’s important to be yourself, but make sure you stick to some rules.
When you’re pitching a story idea to a target media contact, there’s no need to be robotic, overly formal, or long-winded. That’s a sure way to guarantee your pitch is overlooked or deleted.
Remember, you’re a human being. You can be authentic and interesting. Showing some personality can help you build mutually beneficial relationships with journalists and other influencers. However, don’t forget the basics and maintain a few formalities.
Let’s go back to PR 101 for a second. Do your homework. Research the outlet and journalist before you pitch them. Understand their audience. Convey the potential value to their readers and the key facts immediately. Make the pitch unique.
If you fail to do this, your pitch will be relegated to the afterlife waiting room. Take a number. Beetlejuice, BEETLEJUICE, ….BEETLEJU—no, I better not.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas”
Lesson: Know your clients’ strengths (and weaknesses).
In this Halloween classic, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King himself, has just helped lead Halloween Town in another successful celebration. Despite it being recognized as the “scariest” Halloween yet, Jack finds himself somehow unfulfilled.
After aimlessly stumbling into Christmas Town, Jack feels he has a new purpose. He manages to convince the ghouls and goblins of Halloween Town to take over Christmas, which produces disastrous results. Luckily, Santa is a forgiving man and lets bygones be bygones after his kidnapping. In the end, Halloween Town’s favorite son goes back to doing what he does best, terrifying young children.
If you’re working to establish your clients as subject matter experts, make sure you have a keen understanding of the areas they can and cannot talk about. Take time to understand their areas of expertise. While we all strive for earned media coverage, don’t promise something you can’t deliver to a media outlet. Make sure your clients’ experience, feedback, or contribution will be valuable and valid. It’s your job to make sure they portray themselves in the best light possible.
Additionally, know their strengths and weaknesses. Are they uncomfortable on camera? Spend some extra time on media training or, if it’s an option, limit television appearances. Do they have a great rapport with a particular media outlet? Try to work with that outlet as much as you can. Work to highlight the areas where they excel.
Bottom line: If your client belongs in Halloween Town, don’t try to take over Christmas.
Lesson: Expect the unexpected.
It turns out this ‘80s classic is full of life lessons. Besides Egon’s advice about not crossing the streams, this film teaches us to expect the unexpected and prepare for the worst.
When the boys go up to the roof of Dana’s building to take on Gozer, they are informed that the “destructor” will take a form chosen by the team. Trying unsuccessfully to empty his mind, Ray thinks of the least threatening thing he can, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. How threatening can this beloved childhood brand icon be after all? It’s “something that could never, ever possibly destroy us.” We all know what happens next. While the Ghostbusters ultimately come out on top, the giant marshmallow man doesn’t go down without a big messy fight.
Three words: Crisis Communication Plan. Sometimes we have to hope for the best and plan for the worst. Depending on the client or project, it’s essential to have one in place. Something can come up when you least expect it. In the event of a crisis, you have the necessary elements in place. At the bare minimum, determine the designated spokesperson, messaging, and protocol and make sure everyone is on the same page to manage whatever crisis, planned or not, may come your way. Otherwise, you may have a big marshmallowy mess on your hands.
So this October 31st, take some time to brush up on a few of these basic communication lessons… or the consequences could be very frightening indeed.
Happy Halloween! Pass the popcorn.
About Scooter Media
Scooter Media is a full-service communications agency located in Covington specializing in public relations and social media. For more information, please visit www.scootermediaco.com.