PR Fish Bowl

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What PR Can Learn From “The Night Of”

the night of prThe critically acclaimed HBO crime series, “The Night Of” wrapped up this past week, and there are some lessons for public relations teams. The show pits law enforcement against criminals (or would-be offenders) and the justice system, and there are interesting parallels to the relationships we have representing brands and businesses in public relations.

Be a passionate advocate for those you represent. In the fictional “The Night Of,” the beleaguered lawyer played by the brilliant John Turturro develops strategy, follows up leads and lends a supportive shoulder to the accused, even after he has been fired. If you aren’t waking up each day thinking about the businesses you’re responsible for in the PR arena, perhaps you should re-think your career choice. We advise adopting the Turturro character’s dedication in looking for new ways to advocate on your clients’ behalf – scouring the news for industry shake-ups, competition missteps and simple “blue sky” thinking that you can later use to help burnish a client’s business reputation.

Set reasonable expectations. In the series, “Nas,” the accused, listens as his lawyers and his cellmates outline and reiterate what the future will be like for him based on different scenarios. Though it’s hard to hear, an understanding emerges, with no sugarcoating. Nothing can tank a relationship faster than setting lofty goals that your PR team can’t meet. This results from overzealous attempts to win the business or uninformed clients who don’t understand what PR can and cannot do, a topic we covered in this recent post. Take a note from “The Night Of” and set honest and realistic goals from the outset for what can be achieved. Outline what each party has to bring to the table to reach these goals, gain consensus and document it. Communicate often to temperature check and reinforce what’s been agreed upon.

Make even adversarial relationships work. One of the most satisfying aspects of “The Night Of” was the uneasy cooperation and eventual camaraderie experienced by the lead prosecutor and the detective on the case. (Spoiler alert!) As the series ends and the detective casts serious doubt on the prosecution’s case, the prosecutor comes around and you can see a great bond forming between the two. Can you make a “great bond” with each and every team member, client, consultant, journalist? Maybe not, but you can certainly work to have cordial, respectful relationships with everyone in your work world. Take some time to examine the ones that may require “special handling” and make a point to send a friendly note, offer some unsolicited assistance or an invite for something outside the office.

Finally, as with most good crime drama, there’s a bit of “Rashomon” at play with different versions of what actually happened that night.  Although our business doesn’t usually deal with life and death matters, we do want to avoid drama. Therefore, we always advocate for written documentation, face-to-face meetings and as much communication as possible to avoid misunderstanding and promote teamwork to accomplish our goals.

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