Three Public Relations Lessons from the Oscars

It’s been a number of days since Oscar spread his gold dust over the select few in Hollywood, as well as those of us who watched on couches, not in couture.

This year, I realized that the Oscars offer those of us in public relations some lessons worth pondering over a few handfuls of popcorn…

Sure, words matter.  But story matters more.

I had my doubts. Would a film with no dialogue about a fading silent movie star capture my attention for two hours?  Many claim that “The Artist” won because it had the power of a strong marketing machine to fuel it. I claim it won because it had all the elements of a really great story.

A great arc, characters you cared about, suspense, heart – told in a way that we haven’t seen it, at least not in commercial or mainstream theaters. In our profession we spend a considerable amount of time focusing on semantics and language – that’s important, and I’m certainly not arguing that’s time ill spent.  But “The Artist” reminded me that words help tell a story, they don’t make up for one.

Authenticity will always get a standing ovation.

Remember when the audience roared and stood to honor Octavia Spencer? I think they did that two celebrate two things – first, her performance was outstanding. But second, and more important for folks in our business, it was authentic and from the moment her star began to rise for this film.  She never put on airs or deviated from her own true “brand story” – that of a hard-working actress, who was lucky to get this big break, and cared deeply about the story “The Help” could advance. I think those ovations, in the room and on our couches, were recognizing that.

The social web continues to have a leg up.

There it was – defiant, powerful, center stage, demanding attention.  And I’m not just talking about Harvey Weinstein.

After just a few unexpected moments on air, Angelina Jolie’s leg has become the stuff that meme dreams are made of.  It’s everywhere.  It’s popping up on friends’ facebook posts and in photos with global leaders.  And by my last count, her leg claims to have created 13 Twitter profiles.

It’s a matter of time before that leg is offered a sponsorship deal.  The lesson isn’t new.  We were just reminded of it – pay attention to pop culture and what’s happening around you. The next big thing to create buzz online might kick up where we least expect it.

So thanks, Oscar.  But next year – let’s go easy on the Cirque du Soleil.

Ketchum CEO Mike Doyle leads one of the world’s top communications consultancies, helping companies tell their stories, connect with the people they care about most and use communications to inspire action. Mike has helped clients launch products and services, merge or acquire new companies, navigate issues and crises and determine their purpose in an increasingly competitive, connected and consumer-empowered global society. He is the co-chair for Omnicom’s global OPEN Pride employee resource group and serves on the global Board of Directors for GLAAD, the world’s leading organization dedicated to accelerating acceptance for the LGBTQ community. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a graduate of Muhlenberg College, Mike splits his time between New York City, Asbury Park, New Jersey, and on the road, serving Ketchum’s extraordinary colleagues and clients.