Movies can tell us where our society is, and where it is trying to go.
The films nominated this year for Best Picture at the Academy Awards tell a wide range of stories: young adults coming of age, commentary on race and power, a retelling of historical events and even a love story between a mute woman and a fish-man.
Here are some lessons that PR pros (and professional storytellers) can incorporate into their work.
***Disclaimer: Some spoilers ahead.***
1. “Call Me by Your Name”
IMDB summary: “In 1980s Italy, a romance blossoms between a seventeen-year-old student and the older man hired as his father’s research assistant.”
The takeaway: Universal experiences can resonate across diverse audiences.
Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to spend a summer in the Italian countryside, and perhaps you can’t connect with a teenage boy who is struggling with his confusing feelings for an older man. However, the feelings of first love and heartbreak are universal human experiences that we’ve all gone through, which is why this movie has garnered critical acclaim for its ability to resonate with such a wide audience.
When working with clients who are trying to reach an audience that may at first seem beyond its niche, PR pros can dig a little deeper to find a more relatable angle. Shared universal experiences are a great way to get in front of an audience you may have not otherwise been able to reach.
2. “Darkest Hour”
IMDB summary: “During the early days of WWII, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Adolf Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds.”
The takeaway: Public opinion matters.
The public always takes your previous reputation and actions into consideration. Even though Churchill was ultimately right about Hitler and Nazi Germany, he had difficulty drumming up support within his government due to his poor reputation and failures throughout WWI. When dealing with a PR campaign for a particular company or brand, regardless of how genuine your intent (or how creative and compelling your rebranding tactics), your campaign will struggle to succeed if you can’t get buy-in from the general public.
IMDB summary: “Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German Army, and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.”
The takeaway: Consider non-traditional channels.
The Allied soldiers awaiting evacuation realized that a cargo ship that would evacuate 10,000 soldiers at once was not be a feasible option but using smaller civilian vessels could slowly help them accomplish the same goal.
Use this same mentality when approaching a PR campaign. Your story may not be appropriate for the front page of the New York Times, but if you reach out to multiple smaller outlets like niche blogs or social media influencers, you may end up having an even greater impact by building engagement with unconventional channels.
4. “Get Out”
IMDB summary: “ It’s time for a young African-American to meet with his white girlfriend’s parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambience will give way to a nightmare.”
The takeaway: Pay attention to possible red flags.
From inappropriate racial comments made by party attendees to physically jarring reactions to a camera flash, the protagonist Chris ignored warning signs until it was nearly too late.
When planning a campaign or outreach strategy, pay attention to your gut. If something feels off, or if you’ve gotten questionable feedback from colleagues or media you’ve approached, consider it a red flag and reconsider your approach.