Business PR vs Game of Thrones: What businesses can learn
Monday, May 9th, 2016
PR is Coming: Seven Kingdoms, Seven Gods – and Seven PR lessons from Westeros
BLOCKBUSTER TV show Game of Thrones, has just come screaming back onto UK screens with all the blood, gore and sex that we’ve come to expect from the world of Westeros.
So here are my thoughts on what businesses can learn from the world of Westeros – advice that could help transform you from publicity smallfolk into a Lord Commander of PR:
ONE – DON’T LOSE YOUR HEAD
As the old saying goes, the most successful people are those who can keep the head, while everyone around them is losing theirs.
In business ‘losing the head’ can mean anything from an angry outburst to a full-scale meltdown.
But it’s all put in perspective in Game of Thrones, where ‘Losing the head’ usually means an appointment with the ominous and brooding executioner, Ilyn Payne.
Whatever way you look at it, losing the head is rarely a good thing. As PR professionals we know the importance of keeping calm when things do go awry.
Here at Holyrood PR, we’ve had plenty of practice, helping businesses navigate potential crises of all sorts. So, just how do we avoid losing our heads?
Don’t let a drama turn into a crisis. In the age of social media, a crisis can envelop a business faster than ever. So do yourself a favour and check out this guide to crisis communications in the time of smartphones
Firstly, we know what to say and when to say it. When the pressure is on, it’s all too easy to worsen an already bad situation by saying the wrong thing. When working with Holyrood PR you’ll be surefooted – not wrongfooted.
Secondly, we have a plan and we know how to implement it. Follow a plan correctly and it is possible to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that other businesses doing their own PR fall into.
Thirdly, we’ve been through all of this before. Experience counts for a huge amount and we’ve got bags of experience – and the awards to prove it.
*Spoiler alert* We all loved Ned Stark, but everyone knows that since the Lord of Winterfell lost his head, Lannister Inc are putting out far more more media releases than Stark Ltd. What more do you need to know?
TWO – REINVENT YOURSELF
Everyone’s favourite Dragon queen was in dire straits coming up to the end of series one.
Brand recognition was poor and her followers were dwindling. She relaunched herself in a burst of fiery glory and within no time it seemed half the world were clamouring for a piece of her.
The great news is that a profile makeover doesn’t mean a huge and expensive rebranding exercise.
A cost-effective campaign to generate positive headlines in the mainstream media can work wonders – and is incredibly cost-effective.
But it will be even more effective if it supported with incisive social media support and backed up with eye catching and genuinely useful and interesting website content.
The secret of modern communications is to provide information for your potential clients or customers in the places they want to find it. That means you still need to be searchable in more ways and in more places than ever before and in this is the age of visual communications, you need to be comfortable telling your story in any format.
You reinvention can be a colourful and eye catching experience, by harnessing affordable video and photographic services.
You don’t need dragon eggs to buff your profile – our award-winning PR agency can make sure you are treated like a Khaleesi.
THREE – KNOW YOUR REAL ALLIES
In Westeros the rich and powerful can buy in muscle to protect and promote them – whether it’s the Hound escorting prized people through a troubled land or the Mountain “crushing it” for pay.
Perhaps the best-known character providing hired help is the ‘sellsword’ Bronn, who has served both Tyrion and Jaime Lannister. A lovable rogue, he comes with his own sense of right and wrong.
However, in any walk of life, the most valuable supporters are long-term helpers who believe in your cause and whose loyalty goes beyond a bag of gold dragons and silver stags.
In communication the paid for messaging is delivered by the hired swords of advertising – while the long term strategic allies are your PR advisers.
Of course, it’s no secret that paid help has its place. Paid for advertising remains one of the most effective ways to reach an audience – whether old school print ads and billboards, or digital advertising via Google and Facebook.
Yet public relations often provides a more cost-effective and compelling way to get messages in front of your target audience. Bear in mind the popular saying: “Advertising is paying to tell people how great you are. Public relations is getting other people to say how great you are.”
Why believe a hired lackey when there’s an honest man beside him?
FOUR – UNDERSTAND THE SHIELD THAT GUARDS THE BUSINESS REALM
The Night’s Watch protect Westeros from the worry of the wildlings and the downright frightful Others.
Yet they get little or no thanks for it, since most people in the Seven Kingdoms think the great ice Wall where they are based is little more than protection against fairy stories used to scare naughty children.
This has parallels with business life. Too many bosses believe that bad news and scary things are the stuff of myth and legend and “will never happen to us”.
For that reason, they never get round to putting in place the equivalent of a “Night’s Watch”, to make sure someone constantly has their back, while they focus on running a business.
How exactly can a PR agency protect your business and help it to thrive?
Effective public relations ensures your business is projected in a positive light on an ongoing and long-term basis. That helps attract new customers or clients and everyone knows a healthy pipeline is the surest route to a healthy business.
A positive profile also ensures your staff feel valued and appreciated. An energised and passionate workforce is another vital key to a healthy business kingdom. Meanwhile, a constant drip feed of positive messages also helps you, piece-by-piece, build a reputation that won’t crumble under the lightest pressure and that will weather whatever is thrown at it
However, as your PR agency we’d prefer to have a more colourful wardrobe than the Night’s Watch – and wouldn’t really fancy the vow of celibacy!
FIVE – EMPLOY A MASTER OF WHISPERERS
Knowledge is power.
That’s exactly why Varys the Spider makes it his business to know everything that goes on in King’s Landing and beyond.
With no great house, title or money behind him and no soldiers under his command, the bald schemer shouldn’t be able to flourish in the cut throat world of the royal court. Yet he endures.
Of course, we’re not advocating employing a vast network of spies, but working with PR experts can help you to keep clued up on the competition and keep abreast of any industry developments.
The best PR people (like the multi award-winning team at Holyrood PR) will be constantly monitoring both social media and traditional media for potential negative issues. That is vital to a business, because dealing with a customer service or reputational gremlin while it is small will save you time, money and a world of grief.
Likewise you’re PR agency will take on other ‘horizon scanning’ duties, keeping tabs on innovations in your sector and what your rivals are up and reporting back to keep you ahead of the curve.
And don’t forget, PR people tend to be enthusiastic networkers – and will constantly be looking to add value by putting you in touch with other useful to know people.
SIX – GET YOUR ‘SIGIL’ OUT THERE
In the world of Westeros, each of the great houses has its own Sigil – effectively each powerful family has its own stylised logo, from the Direwolf of the Starks to the golden lion of the Lannisters.
Known as Littlefinger, wry Peter Baelish has built himself from nothing to become one of the most powerful Lords this side of the Narrow Sea.
And he did it all by cleverly shaping the ongoing narrative of any situation to put himself in the best possible light, making his adopted mockingbird sigil one of the most instantly recognisable among the influencers who matter.
Similarly, a PR agency can help your business to thrive and grow my by making the story all about you and by getting your name in front of the people who really matter.
Littlefinger didn’t build his powerbase by luck. He built it through guile and a great knack for storytelling. Find out how our story spotting, packaging and sharing skills could help you make your own luck in business.
Positive media exposure is an incredibly powerful way to help build a business. Yet too few businesses understand how to tell a compelling story and fewer still know how to dig out those stories in the first place.
In fact, we commonly hear businesses tell us: “Nobody would be interested in what we do. Wrong! We’ve yet to find a business that doesn’t have interesting stories to tell and we’ve still to find an enterprise we’ve worked with which hasn’t seen the value of successful public relations.
Just like Littlefinger, when you have a long term strategy, the correct business storytelling will be one of the most crucial tactics in helping you to realise it.
SEVEN – LEARN FROM THE KINGSLAYER
Jaime Lannister is one of the most compelling and confounding characters in Game of Thrones.
Apparently flawed beyond redemption, it should be easy to hate him. But it turns out Jaime’s main failing (apart from an incestuous relationship with his sister) was a case of very bad PR.
It eventually becomes clear that the “Kingslayer” name which has dogged him is not all that it appears. However, Jaime kept silent on the act that came to define him. And nature abhors a vacuum.
The result was a story that grew up around his killing of a king – and that was a story that misread and misrepresented his true motive and ambition.
Don’t be tainted by someone else’s telling of your story. Even the least glamorous brands can still enjoy a positive profile. If you think your business isn’t sexy enough for PR success, then check out this useful guide and think again
Since he chose never to challenge that version, it became the defining narrative. Arguably that not only warped perceptions of Jamie Lannister, it helped shape the man himself – and not for the better. And here there are two PR lessons in one.
Firstly, if you don’t set out your own story, others will do it for you. That’s why it pays to make sure that the public profile of your business matches its true objectives and when wrong or damaging stories are circulating, they need to be challenged.
Secondly, it’s important to note that there’s nothing wrong with ambition. However, if it has no accompanying narrative to give it context, then there is a risk that it will seem like unfettered, naked ambition. And that is rarely a good thing.
The PR game can be a daunting one for business new to it but by following these seven tips you should be able to nimbly navigate the pitfalls and command your own media presence effectively and efficiently.
After all, when you work in business, you win or you lose.
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