PR Through The Lens Of TV & Film

I came across the idea for this blog whilst beginning to binge watch the fourth season of “Mad Men” on Netflix, in which the pilot episode of that season is conveniently enough named “Public Relations”. Although fictional, I realised how many great examples of public relations there are in Film and TV.

Starting in the 1960’s, on Madison Avenue, ‘Mad Men’ explores the advertising agency Sterling Cooper and follows the professional and personal lives of it’s employees. Throughout the seven series TV show we come across several excellent public relation related examples.

Beginning with..

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LUCKY STRIKE – UNDERSTANDING DEMOGRAPHICS

The pilot episode focuses on the team at Sterling Cooper having to create a new campaign for their long serving cigarette clients ‘Lucky Strike’. However, new information has just arisen at the time stating how harmful smoking and tobacco is. Don, the creative director, and his team find a way to create a campaign that doesn’t shy away from the truth of the product but instead focuses on the toasting process while steal appealing to the products demographics. The tag line for the campaign read “Lucky Strike. It’s Toasted”. At the time, it was still the older generation that were smoking, and they didn’t particularly care for the new information regarding the health risks. The 60’s also saw a rise in woman smoking as it was seen as ‘liberating’. Throughout the series, Sterling Cooper always displays a great understanding of their demographic and the importance of knowing it, a key lesson for PR practitioners.

ADDING A TELEVISION DEPARTMENT – GET WITH THE TIMES

Sterling Cooper were constantly staying on top of trends in the 1960’s, they added a television and media department at a time where it was relatively uncommon and new. This became one of the agencies defining moments as it brought a new sense of creativity to their campaigns. They knew to remain competitive within the growing ad industry that they had to stay on top of trends. This is even more relative now with the continuous emergence of new technologies and forms of social media. PR practitioners can take a page out of Sterling Coopers book by keeping up with the emerging trends so they can stay competitive and remain on top.

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SUGARBERRY HAM – HAVE A CRISIS SITUATION PLAN

When an account executive and a member of the creative team come up with a publicity stunt for their client ‘Sugarberry Ham’ who are struggling for sales they are quickly met with a crisis. Although the publicity stunt, which involved two woman publicly fighting over a ham in a supermarket, created widespread buzz and increased sales for the client they were hit with the cost of posting bail for one of the woman who was eventually arrested for the stunt, and then further hush money so they would keep quiet surrounding the issue. Crisis situation plans should be thought of in advance on the off chance a campaign goes wrong. In a similar situation on the show, an American airlines jet crashed and the creative director of the agency ordered them to pull their client ‘Mohawk Airlines’ campaigns in order to prevent a reputational crisis by association. Its even more important now for crisis situation plans with the continued rise of social media, many companies and brands have faced backlash over ill advised tweets or posts. Having one of these may prevent even further backlash and damage to the brands image.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK – PROTECT YOUR IMAGE

‘The Social Network’ tells the complicated story of Mark Zuckerberg and his road to creating Facebook. We come upon several PR related examples but one of the more prominent ones was the animal cruelty story which was posted in the ‘Crimson’ newspaper regarding his business partner and best friend Edwardo Saverin. In the article it had named Saverin as the co-founder of Facebook, Zuckerberg didn’t care at all other than the fact it had listed him as this hence the possibility of dragging the companies name through the mud. A similar situation arose with Facebook’s first president Sean Parker, he was arrested for possession of cocaine at a party in the film and after pressure from Zuckerberg and board members, he resigned to avoid any backlash for the company. Nowadays in reality, its even easier for companies and individuals to come under fire with the  progression of social media. Comments made on Twitter or Facebook years ago are continually brought back up and have caused  a number of high profile people to be ‘cancelled’.

THE GOLDEN TICKET – MARKETING BUZZ

Willy Wonka looks to find a successor to his empire in the latest rendition of ‘Charlie & The Chocolate Factory’. The Golden Ticket stunt creates widespread positive publicity for his brand with every man woman and child hoping to unwrap one. Similar stunts like these are still very valuable and common for PR practitioners to use.

And finally..

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THE QUEEN – MORE CRISIS MANAGEMENT

After Princess Diana’s death in 1997, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Royal Family have disagreements on how her death should be addressed to the public. Blair tries to convince Queen Elizabeth to make an affectionate statement regarding the death of her grandchildren’s mother whilst the Royal Family insist on distancing themselves form the situation after the scandal of Diana an Prince Charles’ divorce. This is a great example of what to do to avoid a PR crisis.

Eoghan Gilmore is a final year Bsc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: Instagram – eoghangilmore , LinkedIn – https://ie.linkedin.com/in/eoghan-gilmore-106a89164

The Digital Election

In the 2008 Presidential Election, we witnessed relatively unknown candidate Barack Obama become front and center of the race. Through an engaging social media campaign and a well oiled public relations team Obama would go on to become the 49th President. Fast forward to 2016 and Donald Trump has become the first “twitter – based” presidency. Trumps use of Twitter has become a significant breakthrough for social media in politics. It allowed Trump to utilise and connect personally with his supporters, slam his opponents and outline his policies all in the one space. Jump to 2017, Corbyn’s unexpected rise in popularity in the UK General Election seemed to be because of a surge in Labour’s youth vote which has been attributed to their social media strategies. Two years later, we are in what could be the most important General Election the United Kingdom has seen and it’s already begun to be dominated by social media.

Below, I have listed some ways in which political parties and their leaders have started to use social media to advance their campaigns.

BLURRING THE TRUTH

We are all very aware of the impact ‘fake news’ can have on elections, no thanks to Donald Trump. However, a more sophisticated form has now emerged where videos of interviews have been edited to make those in question appear in a negative light. The first week of campaigning has been dominated by the Conservative party posting a video of a “Good Morning Britain” Interview with Labour party member Keir Starmer. In the video tweeted on the Conservative parties account, it appears to show the Labour member unable to answer a question on their parties policy towards Brexit. Although when played alongside the full interview, it shows the video has clearly been edited, as Starmer answered the question immediately.

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This clip tweeted by the Conservative party became one of the most watched videos by a political party or party leader since the vote to hold a general election. Despite the high number of viewers, it’s hard to gauge whether or not these viewers approved or disapproved of the tweet. For those who look into it, it can easily sway public opinion against the Conservatives or vice versa. The public may only look at the original tweet and may believe Labour’s members still don’t know their stance on Brexit.

THE TWITTER SCREENSHOT STRATEGY

If you have the usual social media sites, you will definitely have noticed screenshots of tweets by party leaders and political parties making their way on to Instagram and Facebook. The reason being, Twitter has fewer users than other sites but can easily kick-start the conversation on Facebook & Instagram when these are shared. Jeremy Corbyn has now started using the screenshot to reach a wider audience, his main social media platform is Twitter, and evidence suggests that those who talk politics on twitter tend to support Labour. Hence why Corbyn has now began posting screenshots of his tweets on to Facebook.

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Conservatives have also been posting screenshots of tweets and not just their own tweets, but other party members in order to criticise them. They posted a screenshot of a Corbyn tweet regarding Brexit policy labeling it as “dither & delay”. Instagram, which is generally known for its pleasing aesthetic is also seeing a large amount of screenshotted tweet posts. Both Corbyn and Johnson have been posting simple screenshots on their profiles, as it stands however Corbyn has been receiving much more interactions with his posts.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

Both Corbyn and Johnson have started to use Snapchat for campaigning posts hinting at their attempts to engage with an even younger audience. The posts mainly combine video with graphics and text, however, don’t seem overly informative.

RELATABILITY & PERSONALITY

Now more than ever, the importance of personality and being relatable to the younger generation is crucial for politicians. What Johnson seems to lack in relatability, Corbyn has definitely taking advantage with this through the use of his videos on his personal Instagram account.

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The six second video clip above garnered over 175,000 views and has been by far the most successful on a politicians personal account. All of the parties seem to have raised their game on Instagram since this and there has been an increase in most political parties followers. There are over 20 million Instagram accounts in the UK with the majority of those users under 45. This is a key demographic that Labour really want to reach and its clear that they are going the right way about it.

A lot has changed since 2017 when Labour outsmarted the other political parties with their digital campaign. They can no longer be certain of dominance across all digital platforms. However, Labour’s strategy of attacking the rich through Twitter & Facebook have been well – received and they continue to garner the most interactions. For how long it will stay that way, we don’t know. I suspect a few more twists in this digital election.

Eoghan Gilmore is a final year Bsc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: Instagram – eoghangilmore , LinkedIn – https://ie.linkedin.com/in/eoghan-gilmore-106a89164