Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Clausewitz teaches War, also PR

Clausewitz is definitely a war specialist. However, his philosophy on war can also be properly used in PR world.

Clausewitz said, “War is the continuation of policy by other means. The political object is the goal, and war is the means of accomplishing it, and means can never be considered in isolation from their purposes.”

What Clausewitz means in this sentence is that war is always the way to accomplish the political goal and can never get away from what the goal directs. The goal goes first with the war second. Similarly, in the world of communication, we must possess a clear goal to direct our thoughts. Especially, if we work in companies, the business goal is the over-riding goal we have to stick to during any communication process. Communication goes after the business goal. If communication tactics do not support the business goal, they are totally wrong, though meaningful in their own contexts. Thinking strategically requires we have right goals first and then develop right communication tactics accordingly.

Clausewitz also said, “War is an act of will aimed at a living entity that reacts.”

Using this statement, Clausewitz explains how important it is to precisely predict how the living entity will react towards the war. The more the commander knows about the enemy, the more likelihood he takes to win. This phenomenon is also pervasive in the PR world. All communication should be framed so that the audience to which it is directed will react in predictable ways. However, most of Public Relations practitioners ignore the significance of the prediction on the outcome of your ideas. Many PR practitioners just communicate what they want to share, but not what their audiences really want. In this case, audiences’ reactions may often be out of control, at least, out of PR people’s imagination, and then lead to an unsuccessful communication. We should be the PR people who know the audiences, understand their necessity and estimate their reactions to increase predictability of what we want them to see. Audiences’ thinking is the key in strategic communication.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Film is Good? No, there is risk!

When it comes to the film industry, people always regard it as a brilliant, high earned and safe career. Is that true? Days ago, my friend and I talked about this topic. I answered her questions about the relationship between the film industry and the PR jobs. Below are our conversations.

Q: Is there any risk when promoting a film?
A: Yes, there is, absolutely. Every industry has its own weakness including the seemingly brilliant film industry. The risks come from many different areas. The most serious one is the regulation. In the US, there is the movie rating system that can severely affect the scale of audiences. In China, the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) highly control the theme, the story and the scenes of each film. The film can’t be shown publicly until it gets through the SARFT’s review. There are risks that you have done every promotion proposal ready well but hear that the film cannot be released. In addition, you have to notice what your competitors do. Sometimes, the company will change the releasing dates of some films, which may outgun your film in terms of word of mouth and box office. Plus, there are chances to encounter natural or manual disasters. 

Q: What is the best example of handling the risk management in the film industry?
A: I want to mention the thunderbolt in the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” in 2012. In July, Warner Brothers planned a midnight show to firstly release the film “The Dark Knight Rises”. At that night, a crazed gunman murdered 12 innocent people and wounded 58 others. This tragedy forced Warner Brothers immediately reevaluate its PR plans for the movie. Luckily, it took a quick action and drew positive reviews. The studio, at the very first time, began to defer other major premieres, canceled all advertising and asked for the movie stars to comfort and support the victims. Also, the studio delayed the showing of “Gangster Squad” that depicted four men shooting up a movie theater.

Remembrance Book from Warner Brother
posted in the website of "The Dark Knight Rises"

Q: What’s your suggestion to best practice risk management?
A: Risk situations, although very rare to see, really exist. As PR people who protect the organizational reputation, we have to be ready to confront risks at any moment. We can’t treat potential risks slightly, assuming these would not befell our films due to low probability of happening. On the contrary, when we develop the PR plan, we have to consider some possible risk situations and come up with solutions to each risk. This prepared thinking can be written into a Risk Predicting Sheet to inform all the employees the proper action of handling risk communications. If the risk really comes, we have to be calm first and take right actions fast.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In PR world, How Round-Up Goes

Round-up is an essay publicizing the product, the service or the corporation from a different perspective than the press release.

In the press release, PR people always centralize the news about the company. Whether the products or the business format or something else relevant to the company all can be included into the press release, only if it is newsworthy enough to hook the audience and can present the company in a positive way. In the round-up, it seems that the content is unrelated to the company. Actually, it isn’t. Through the round-up, PR people are writing popular trends of the whole industry to promote the company in a soft way.

Supposed we are promoting the film “The Maze Runner”. What should we write in the round-up?

#1 Rationalize why mazes are popular in real life. We can write the history, the development and the style of mazes, or the academic enlightenment from the maze.

#2 Tell the relationships between the maze and the film. We can analyze the characteristics of both the maze and the film art, and then find out the common areas.

#3 Recommend mazes in real life. This offers the chance of cooperation with tourist attractions and can lead audiences to a good experience.

#4 Introduce films featuring the maze, like “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”, “Inception” and “The Shining”, etc.

Elements above are cited from  "Why Are People Addicted To Mazes"  

There are many elements we can write into a round-up. The round-up is to round up the company to a marco level of the industry. It introduces the industry and certainly publicizes the companies as parts of the article.

Monday, November 17, 2014

In PR World, Audience Is Host with Media As Servant

One month ago, “The Maze Runner” got released across the Chinese mainland. To promote this film, the production established a real maze at a shopping mall in Beijing, which inspired me a lot.

The Real Maze in Beijing
Established By 20 Century Fox to Promote "The Maze Runner"
The film production companies have been conducting press conference for decades to promote films before showing them. The press conference, pervasive in all industries, is only aimed at the media. Obviously, holding the press conference is the easiest way to inform the whole society that you are launching a new product, a new service or a new idea. However, the target audience in the press conference is the media, not the clients. Organizations often use the media as an intermediate to transmit the news they want to deliver. Although many PR professionals categorize the media into public groups the organization has to handle the relationships with, in my opinion, we can’t treat the media as we treat other groups like customers, regulators, stakeholders, and etc., especially in this web era.

Years before, organizations totally relied on media people to deliver the information and influence the public opinion. However, at present, with Internet and social media platforms, organizations can have their own voice in transmitting their ideas. I’m not meant to look down on the significance of media. After all, it is still essential for PR people to reach out with journalists to improve the likelihood of publicity about their own entities. The importance of earned media will never ever diminish. What I want to mention is that the Internet and social media platforms shorten the distance between organizations with their clients. It’s just like the organizational idea takes a non-stop flight to the clients while originally this flight must stop at the media. On the other hand, customers perform actively in the Internet and social media platform. They want to be engaged in the organizational event, not to receive the information the media give them.

According to Ms. Shen, the marketing manager in 20 Century Fox China, “The real maze we established is an initiative to promote ‘The Maze Runner’”, said Ms. Shen, the marketing manager in 20 Century Fox China, “Interesting interactions can trigger higher-level engagement and make audiences really aware of what the story is. We are eager to hold events not just for media, but to directly involve our target audiences. ”

This trend, named Experience Marketing (EM), has been popular for years in several industries. Nike, Coca Cola and Apple all once held EM events. The goal is to improve the engagement level. More importantly, if the result is good, like thousands of people attend the event, media will be hooked to publicize the event, the product centralized in this event and the organization holding this event. An interesting EM event can lead to much better results than a plain press conference. At least, it benefits media and audiences at the same time.

“The Maze Runner” taught PR people a good lesson about Experience Marketing. This is a new career in PR world and there is a new principle behind it -- audience is always the primary concern while media serve as the assist.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Learn Mastery at Reporting News: from Broadway to Films

Broadway musical shows are one of the famous New York’s interests to people all over the world. But should we always go to Broadway’s theaters in Manhattan for that? Years before, the answer was surly yes! In little more than a month, I will say no. Broadway Worldwide is endeavoring to translate its musical work “Of Mice and Men” into film version, which will be beamed into thousands of film theaters around the US in November.

From NYTimes, Oct 7, C5

The article “CatchingBroadway on Camera” in Today’s (Oct 7) New York Times tells us this good news and even deeply analyzes this process of “From Broadway to Movie Screen”. Rather than a press only telling the basic fact, this article is more like a feature story about the entire offstage happenings contributing to this Broadway breakthrough.

In terms of public relations, this article has two values. One is to publicize “Of Mice and Men”, to inform the audiences that this shows will be filmed to get released next month. Publicity is better than advertisement because it’s cost-effectively and credible. If “Of Mice and Men”, for example, post its advertising pictures on NYTimes, the production will pay 180,000 dollars for one-page once, which means too much for an organization that doesn’t gain many profits. However, by publicity like this, the production can only spend a minimum on coffees or snacks that give reporters when discussing this pitch. Also, from an unbiased voice, rather than a self-based ad, all the sentences in the article serve as stronger persuasive tools to tell audiences Broadway is trying its best to do better.

The other is to trigger discussions and thinking about the new method Broadway can make credits. Broadway, in this Internet era, faces more strong competitors such as online videos. It needs changes and also more exposures via various outlets. In this sense, this article seems like a promotional plan within Broadway’s business proposal.

As a PR person, I actually learn a lot from this article about how to conduct an appealing, newsworthy and creative story. I think there are five elements:

(1)  CONTENT: This article chooses a “new” format as its reporting angle. The translation of musical shows to films is something never seen before and thus will get audiences’ interests.

(2)  RESULT: Actually, it is New Yorkers’ or worldwide people’s habits to watch a Broadway show in a Broadway theater. If Broadway stars to make shows films, people will have to make a choice when they want to see Broadway shows. This action, therefore, has a great impact on millions of thousands of people’s daily entertaining life and can draw attentions easily.

(3)  STYLE: This article tells a long story concerning not only the progressing steps of “Stages-to-Screens” but also the challenges and following endeavors of this progress.

(4)  QUOTE: In this article, the author quotes many executive members’ sayings, like the creative star James Franco, the producer David Binder, the co-president of a distributor company Julie Borchard-Young and even the movie star Orlando Bloom. These celebrities certainly are from each part of this translating chain, from shows’ production, to distribution, and to the film industry. All these third-party endorsements lend credibility to this article that set a good sample of discussions among audiences.

(5)  ATTITUDE: Reporters must remain natural, objective and indifferent when writing articles. The author of this article, Lorne Manly, shows his unbiased opinion as soon as he edits the title “Catching Broadway on Camera: Possible Progress in a Longtime Effort”. “Possible” and ”Longtime”, two conservative words, implicates that the effort doesn’t make sense right now. And at the end, he quotes Orlando’s comment of no guarantee of box office success. However, he also refers to some positive facts like Broadway’s endeavors and other successful examples. This balance between good things and bad ones give audiences chances to further discuss after reading.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Film Promotion Gets Diversified

Nowadays, promotional process of the commercial movie works become essential, especially due to the fierce competitions in film market. All film makers want audiences discover and be appealed to their works. Thus, promotion diversity comes.

Traditional Method:

#1 Press Release

Many film production firms and distributors send pitches to film editors among various target media to post their press about new works. However, this traditional tool needs following promotional methods to offer newsworthy resources.
Movie News Page at IMDb.com

#2 Video Release

It is traditional to edit series of trailers showing through theaters, televisions and website to attract all kinds of audiences.
DreamWorks TV official channel at YouTube.com responsible for releasing film preview videos

#3 Press Conference

Prior to getting shown, many films tend to hold many kinds of press conference to make news and attract eyes. Some of them even hold first-showing conference to some reporters and film critics to create deep discussions among audiences.
Chinese movie "Golden Era" held its press conference in Nanjing.

Creative Method:


This refers to present films’ names very clearly and directly to the public.

#1 Advertising

Films now start to make posters covering every corner of its target market country, even in a place originally impossible for advertising.
Chinese movie "Gone With The Bullet" makes advertisement in fields using grass to spell film's name and releasing date.
WORDS AS SHOWN "3D Great Movie: Gone With The Bullet, December 18, Jiang Wen"

"Gone With Bullet" Creative Field Advertisement Video, CLICK HERE

#2 Re-Sponsorship

Previously, films need investments to support its making. Thus there are many brands inserting in some films. But for now, films themselves can sponsor other project and make marketing amazing.
"Gone With The Bullet" also cooperates with China Open tennis game releasing its own postcard-like memorial tickets  and setting a visiting room with its posters and stage photos on the wall.
WORDS AS SHOWN "Just One Step Between You And China Open"


This refers to “hide” films’ brands behind a well-designed campaign.

#1 TV Show

The combination of popular TV programs and new films is an efficient way to direct audiences to theaters. People who love to watch TV will receive the info that a new film is coming soon. And they also could identify which directors and actors mainly create this work because many creative staff will attend the TV shows.
The famous actors in Chinese new film "Breakup Buddies" attended Chinese popular TV show "The Voice of China".

#2 Spot Event

Films begin to walk along the street to attract people’s eyes. The events are creative, novel and excellent enough.
Several muscle men were dressed up as Sparta warriors in London promoting the DVD releasing of "300: Rise of an Empire".