In case you’re unfamiliar, John Wick is an action movie franchise starring Keanu Reeves as a retired hitman who is brought back to active duty in unexpected ways. Adding to the drama is the fact Wick is a “Baba Yaga,” or the human equivalent of a mythical Russian figure that will kill anything unfortunate enough to cross its path. In short, Wick is the last man on earth you would ever want to be on your trail.
Now in theaters (or depending on when you read this, on streaming services), “John Wick: Chapter 4” finds the titular character seeking vengeance on a council of crime lords that have placed a bounty on his head. This attracts the attention of a plethora of colorful assassins seeking to claim the top prize, making anywhere Wick goes a potential stage for a shootout. With good critical reviews and a built-in audience from his previous adventures, the hitman’s latest should be a big hit.
While the films might seem like an unlikely source of inspiration, even seasoned PR professionals can often find themselves in situations just like Mr. Wick, where knowing how to navigate unanticipated challenges is the key to success.
Put on your best suit and gear up — here are three lessons public relations professionals would be wise to utilize, courtesy of the world of John Wick:
#1: Building Relationships Now Will Help in a Crisis Later
“I know what you’re thinking, Jonathan. We live by a code, which is why I’m not the one telling you that a certain helicopter at a certain helipad is being fueled for a certain someone.” – Winston (Ian McShane)
“The scoop” is something journalists crave, and in today’s instant-everything society, watching events unfold in real-time is standard practice. However, if you are able to cultivate relationships with people, knowing you have someone “on the inside” can be a valuable asset when your organization is facing a tough situation.
For example, this may be a media member you know will treat the story fairly, instead of turning it into a “gotcha” situation. Getting them to imagine how that exclusive interview or tale of redemption will drive their ratings or page views might buy you some time from being put on the hot seat.
You may not have a Winston that can help you flee at a moment’s notice, but knowing you’ve got someone who is willing to help in a crisis is an invaluable resource to have.
#2: Stay Current By Using Tried-and-True Methods
“People don’t change. You know that. Times, they do.” – Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist)
Think about the last 10 years. We’ve gone from things like Instagram and smartphones being novelties to indispensable tools for nearly every PR pro. But despite all the technology we get, the same things fuel them all: Information, connection, and the balance between wants and needs.
While Wick’s adventures find him facing new threats with each chapter, how he has to deal with them remains the same. Likewise, knowing how to best utilize the tools at your disposal can help you not only keep pace with trends but set them as you work to achieve the goals all PR pros chase: (1) driving people to act, (2) changing an audience’s thinking, and/or (3) supporting a cause.
#3: Know When You Can Fix a Problem … and When You Can’t
“It’s not what you did, son, that angers me so. It’s who you did it to.” – Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist)
The antagonist of the series, Viggo Tarasov, knew precisely how much trouble he was in once his actions ensured he would incur Wick’s wrath. His son, being brash and headstrong, did not. Tarasov mistakenly thought that he could “make things right” but as anyone who has seen the movie or its sequels can tell you, he could – and did – not.
Sometimes you may incur a challenging client that just doesn’t share your vision for a project. There may be a member of the media who, for whatever reason, just doesn’t respond to your pitches, emails and/or phone calls. No one likes to be told “no;” but no is a lot better than endangering your client, agency, or career by being reckless because of a problem that simply can’t be fixed.
Then again, it might help to ensure you never steal a car or kill the puppy of a world-renown hitman, either.
On the hunt (like John Wick) for more great PR content? The Scooter Media blog has you covered! Don’t miss: