PR on the big screen: what lessons can we learn?

I might be almost 10 years late to the party, but this weekend I watched Hancock for the first time. The description on Netflix mentioned a ‘boozy superhero’ so I was expecting a Will Smith comedy classic…imagine my surprise when a PR guy turns up?

This wasn’t the first time this has happened; a few months back,  I came across some of the Sex and the City boxsets in a charity shop. I’d heard of the infamous Samantha Jones, having been a fan of the films and also the more recent Carrie Diaries, so I knew she worked in PR but I really got to know her (in more ways than one (!)) and her career whilst making my way through the boxsets.

Samantha and Ray’s characters may be stark contrasts and have very different tactics when it comes to ‘good PR’ but there’s still plenty of lessons we can learn from both.

Lesson 1: PR tactics can be polar opposites, but they can both work

Samantha does kind of sell a totally false image of what PR is (which has most likely contributed to us having the reputation of selling club tickets…shoot me now) but you’ve gotta give it to her – she’s good at what she does.

Samantha’s job revolves around raising awareness of her clients through celebrity endorsements, planning parties, and drinking cocktails. But in Hancock, we see Ray pitching a new All-Heart logo for businesses who are extremely charitable. Couldn’t be more different, could they?

For some brands, the party/schmoozy PR tactics is what will work for them and for some a more serious and corporate PR approach is vital. There isn’t a universally right or wrong answer to what ‘good PR’ is; understand your client and their PR needs and you’ll be able to nail your tactics.

Lesson 2: Reputation is at the core of PR

In Hancock we see Ray send him off to prison as a PR tactic, which is probably a rather unlikely scenario for most of us but there’s still something we can learn from it. For your client’s reputation to be tip-top, you need to have the public on your side – it just so happens that in Hancock’s circumstances, he had to go to prison to achieve this.

It also goes to show that a reputation fail doesn’t mean it’s the end for a business. As a good quality PR person, you need to have the strategy and tactics in place to rebuild your client’s reputation if they’ve had a minor (or major) slip-up. What does your client need to do to win the forgiveness of their audience? What can they do to change their image in the media? PR has the power to turn a bad image around!

Lesson 3: Network online and offline to get to know the right people 

It’s no secret that Samantha is very much an extravert, in both her work and personal life. In Sex and the City, we see Samantha with a constant list of contacts and whilst some of these may be on more of a ‘little black book list’, we can be sure her list of professional contacts is sky high.

The contacts you have with journalists and editors can give you the edge when getting coverage; as soon as you have a new story or press release for a client, you know who to pitch it to to get the ball rolling.

Back in the days of Sex and the City circa the nineties, digital PR wasn’t yet a thing and traditional PR tactics were Samantha’s forte. Now, PR pros need to have both online and offline contacts in order to get the best coverage and links for clients in all types of media.

What type of PR person do you see yourself as? Are you more of a Samantha or a Ray? If you’re interested to see what other films have underlying PR themes that you may not have noticed, check out this post!

L x