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#PR: What Will Smith's Advertising Epiphany Can Mean for PR
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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LinkedIn Pulse recently published an article by Katie Carroll about an ad epiphany noted actor Will Smith recently had. While the piece talks about advertising, this blogger found some crossover application for us flacks as well.

Carroll, who is a senior news editor for LinkedIn, noted that “What he [Smith] discovered (and what Hollywood and marketers everywhere still are) is that the winning-is-the-only-thing strategy doesn't really work anymore.” I believe this applies even to PR today as well.

I will quote some gems from Will Smith's comments as well as comments Carroll herself made and then note how they apply to PR.

She quoted Smith while noting that today's digital and shared media age is brutally responsive to products, brands, and even films: "You're going to know right away if your product is meeting its promises."

To me this means even us flacks; we have to be totally sure our product is meeting its promises and whatever else is necessary for our customers to want it.

She then quoted Smith's further comments, which I think you will see are of immediate application to us flacks: "If people don't want it, you're not going to be able to sell it."

When his daughter told him during a movie tour she wanted to go home and then shaved her head to make the point, Smith had somewhat of a personal revelation about movies and marketing and even PR: “It was so explosive in my mind that selling, marketing, creating cannot be about me. “ Carroll commented that if advertisers and PR people do not truly listen to their audiences, “Your promotions will fall on deaf ears. (And to employers: Good luck telling your team to do something they don't believe in just because you've mandated it.)”

This same theme was mentioned by Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times Company, as well. He noted that "We're moving from a world where advertising can work on the basis of captive attention to a world where advertising has to capture attention.” How to capture people's attention without turning them off is the challenge. And that is where truly listening to your target audiences comes in. For us PR flacks, as well as for those in advertising, this is a lesson well worth learning.

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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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