Happy Star Wars Day, my fellow nerfherders, moisture farmers, rebel scum, bantha fodder, and bounty hunters! Usually on this day, I’m busy thinking up cool #MayThe4thBeWithYou tweets in hopes of getting retweeted to validate my Star Wars fandom card. But not today, my friends. Today, Ketchum gave me the keys to the Millennium Falcon to share my love of Star Wars with you. And I am going to do so by sharing five lessons from Star Wars that all communicators can apply right now (lightsaber optional).
Steer the conversation.
“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” said a self-assured Obi-Wan Kenobi when interrogated by Imperial Stormtroopers about his droids. While none of us have the midichlorian count to simply “wave” a conversation in another direction, we do have the power to listen before we engage with audiences. By simply applying smart social listening, and assessing what is driving their conversations, we can find those pivot points that will make what we have to say all the more relevant and impactful. We all have our key messages, but in order for us to truly steer the conversation, we need to first figure out what our audience will listen to, and work from there.
C-3PO made it very clear on multiple occasions that he was fluent in over six million forms of communication. Pretty smug assertion for a droid with no fighting capabilities. Cockiness aside, it served him (and his friends) well because he could always act and communicate in an appropriate manner within any given context. Isn’t that half the battle for communications professionals? Actually, it’s likely more than half. Our landscape is rapidly changing, and our ability to understand the various comms platforms and protocols within them is critical to our success. I swallow my pride and ask my kids about all things Snapchat and Music.ly, not because it’s the cool thing to do, but because if my client asks about them, I’m ready like a trusty protocol droid to guide them through it all.
Thermal exhaust ports are everywhere.
I must admit, I have always felt really bad for the architect who designed the Death Star. At Imperial contractor vendor fairs, he’s the guy everyone walks by while coughing **ahem, exhaust port fail!** In our world, thermal exhaust ports (or vulnerabilities) are everywhere – at least metaphorically. How many times have brands left themselves exposed to mockery, disdain, boycotts and retweet storms that have left them feeling incinerated? As stewards of the brand conversation, we have to assume that every client has vulnerabilities that we have yet to discover, and it is our job to stay vigilant by always listening and tracking social, industry and media conversations to create contingency plans. Whether that’s in the form of a war room during important moments, or crisis planning for all platforms, we can’t ever get too comfortable.
There is no try.
When I first heard Yoda utter, “Do or do not. There is no try,” to Luke Skywalker, I thought he was a big jerk. After all, isn’t childhood all about testing your limits and trying your best? We can’t always Jedi up and conquer just by willing it into existence. Now, as my Jedi training has advanced, I’m beginning to understand what he meant. If you “try” something, you are introducing failure into the equation before you even begin. Communications is an odd beast, and failures come often. However, seemingly out-of-nowhere, successes also happen. There is no such thing as tentative communication. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. It is our job to go into everything we do with an attitude of success, or as Han Solo so eloquently put it, “Never tell me the odds,” which leads me to my last lesson…
Be Han Solo.
Han Solo was skilled. Han Solo was confident. But above all else, Han Solo had swagger. We all need more swagger in this profession. Communications folks are always viewed as the nice people in the room. Maybe it’s because it’s our job to navigate through tough conversations, or persuade important people, all of which requires a level of diplomacy and finesse. But I tell you this: navigating unpredictable territory is one of the toughest things to do. It requires intuition, smarts, flexibility and creativity to do it well. We are the stewards of brand reputation, perception and conversation. We’re navigating asteroid fields. When you’re doing that, and a client says, “I love your campaign,” just look them in the eye and say, “I know.”