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January 9, 2017

What Public Relations Can Learn From The Golden Globes

ap-meryl-streep-mt-160108_12x5_1600If part of your public relations planning this year features a thought leadership initiative including speaking engagements and awards for clients, there were some lessons to be learned from last night’s Golden Globes celebration of all things TV and movies. Despite what you hear, it’s not all party, party, party. Take a look at these examples for some interesting takeaways that can help make your execs shine at their next industry gathering or press event.

Learn from Tom Hiddleston and choose your anecdotes wisely.  The star of “The Night Manager” was well-intentioned when he recounted a tale of aid workers he worked with in Africa. His point – I think – was that volunteers told him that watching the international arms dealer crime thriller had helped them relax from the stresses of their daily activities.  But the story was overlong and it probably belonged in the post-Awards interviews rather then the acceptance speech itself. Also, some Globe-watchers thought Hiddleston’s anecdote was self-serving. Our advice: Anything a CEO or other leader can employ to humanize them to an audience is positive, but it helps to vet potential stories with a PR team ahead of time for potential landmines.

Take Casey Affleck’s approach to recognizing those who came before. When this Best Oscar in a Drama won for his heart-wrenching performance in “Manchester by the Sea,” he took the opportunity to quote another acting great in the room, Denzel Washington. This gesture was not only eloquent, but demonstrated Affleck’s respect for an industry elder. With a little homework, anyone giving a speech or accepting an award can incorporate this easy, natural way to engender good will with a crowd.

Make judicious use of props like Dev Patel. It helped that the “prop” Best Actor nominee Patel had with him was his adorable “Lion” co-star, but you get the picture. Very few speakers are scintillating enough to captivate a crowd without visual support, and the CEO of a technololgy or healthcare company is no exception. The best speaking opportunities come together with a mix of great storytelling, passionate delivery, graphic illustration, and when it fits, a meaningful prop that grabs an audience’s attention.

Stave off public embarrassment (Jenna Bush Hager, Michael Keaton) with sensitivity and rigorous prep. We acknowledge that celebrities have a lot on their plates at industry events, but knowing the names of top films is relevant to their business. So, to see two announcers mindlessly meld important but distinctly different African-American films into one mangled title, the now infamous #HiddenFences, was cringeworthy. And it shouldn’t have happened. This is where rehearsal, cheat sheets, the producer in your earpiece, or even Siri, come in very handy. Nothing beats preparation when you’re speaking live in front of an audience.

Emulate Meryl Streep and use your platform wisely…and carefully. Without name-calling, sarcasm or derogatory language, the greatest actress of her generation gave an impassioned, thoughtful and rousing acceptance speech after her Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. Now, for a business executive, anything that borders on the political can be tricky, but we think Streep pulled it off because of her careful language, inspiring tone, and professional stature. As PR counselors, we encourage our clients to stake out a position on key issues, but those that are relevant to their organization and in a way that minimizes the chance of a backlash. There aren’t many performers of Streep’s caliber, and there probably aren’t very many corporate executives who could pull off the business equivalent of her speech. But there are some; we’d name Howard Schultz, Marc Benioff, Mark Cuban, and Elon Musk. Any executive considering using their next speaking opportunity to address a hot-button topic would be wise to watch Streep in action and measure their reputation and track record against hers first.

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