Originally posted in his blog, The Last Blog on Earth, and then later on PR Daily, Louisville PR professional Doug Bennett analyzes lessons PR folks can learn from the popular Netflix drama ‘House of Cards.’ If you haven’t watched it yet, I promise I won’t give away any spoilers. Trust me, I want you to experience the same “WHAT?!” moments I did.
And if you don’t believe that the Congressional power dynamics in the show are necessarily illustrative of real-world Washington, take this with a grain of salt. But Bennett offers us some suggestions that are good to be reminded of in PR– which he was reminded of while watching ‘House of Cards.’
Among the points he makes in his blog, 7 things PR pros can learn from ‘House of Cards’, are the following reminders:
- Always prepare for an interview – Bennett brings up the scene in ‘House of Cards’ where Representative Frank Underwood (main character; played by Kevin Spacey) goes on television to debate a contentious teacher’s strike. Without giving anything away for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, let’s just say Representative Underwood could have been a bit more prepared. Interviews are on the docket here at News Generation nearly every day, and we are overwhelmingly happy with the quality of spokespeople we work with. Luckily no Representative Underwood-esque interviews for us… (please excuse me while I go find some wood to knock on).
- Respond quickly to a crisis situation – Handling crisis communication is a topic we have touched on in a few of our most recent blog posts. Bennett emphasizes the importance of showing responsiveness and care when dealing with a crisis. Representative Underwood is forced to travel back to his hometown in South Carolina to handle a crisis (a quick aside: areas of Underwood’s hometown in “South Carolina” are actually my hometown in suburban Maryland – so I may or may not have been yelling “I know where that is!” as I watched the show). Bennett applauds Representative Underwood’s handling of the situation in a quick and open manner.
In our recent blog, “Using Twitter in Times of Crisis,” we give a few examples of using Twitter in effectively handling a crisis. In one example, a KitchenAid employee accidentally sent an insensitive tweet about President Obama’s grandmother from the corporate KitchenAid Twitter account. Cynthia Soledad, senior director at KitchenAid, quickly took notice – and took to Twitter – to handle the situation on behalf of the company. She has been praised for her rapid and effective response.
- Put a face to your story – Bennett talks about Representative Underwood’s move to humanize the aforementioned teacher’s strike by tying in a story about a child’s untimely death. In the fast, “viral” nature of social media, stories that tug at the heartstrings have a particular ability to spread swiftly and reach a large audience.
Even if you take your job in PR out of the picture, in your everyday life you have undoubtedly been witness to interviews that are just downright awkward. But, you’ve also experienced interviews so captivating you forget what you are doing and become completely absorbed in the story you are hearing.
- Don’t speculate – Since I promised I wouldn’t give away any significant plot points, I won’t discuss the specifics of the example Bennett gives on this point. However, he does bring up how important accuracy is and how vital verification is (topics prevalent at the fictitious Washington Herald and Slugline in ‘House of Cards’). In PR, our credibility is what causes our valued to clients to trust working with us time and time again.
- Put yourself in a good mental place before an interview – In the ‘House of Cards’ example Bennett discusses (again, I don’t want to give away too much!), the lesson learned is simple: don’t have a considerable amount of alcohol in your system while doing an interview. But hopefully the majority of us are not dealing with spokespeople in that condition too frequently.
Having a spokesperson that is charismatic and knowledgeable about the subject of the interview is crucial in making sure reporters get the information they need, and then in turn educating the public about your important message.