On the first Sunday of February every year, people gather to eat buffalo wings and watch men run and fall down for, by my estimate, six hours.
A few weeks after this, I have my own Super Bowl, wherein I try not to choked up during Academy Awards acceptance speeches.
Award show season always provides tons of memorable moments–no one will ever forget Sally Field’s “You like me!” moment–but these nights are often criticized as being self-congratulatory and vain of the highly paid celebrities in attendance.
If we look a little closer, though, these shows could actually teach us a thing or two. This year’s awards season has a few lessons that could benefit PR pros looking to improve their campaigns.
Authenticity is well-received
One of the most anticipated performances at this year’s Grammys came from Adele, who performed her song “Hello” in addition to a cover of George Michael’s “Fastlove.” Adele’s first notes of the Michael’s song were in the wrong key, giving the song a pitchy start.
“Can we please start it again?” she said, pausing in the middle of her performance. “I’m sorry, I can’t mess this up for him. I’m sorry, I can’t.”
The crowded lauded her with a standing ovation and applause. Her choice to pause and restart a live, televised performance illustrates the value of vulnerability and authenticity. These traits are often discounted or construed as weakness, but Adele proves how well-received they can be.
Authenticity in PR programs, such as inclusion of personal, relatable stories in campaigns or admission of a mistake, could improve the reputation of an organization and provoke positive responses from intended audiences.
Stand out with a purpose
At this year’s Golden Globes, actress and musician Evan Rachel Wood opted for a custom suit rather than the typical gown. “I love dresses–I’m not trying to protest dresses–but I wanted to make sure that young girls and women knew they aren’t a requirement,” Wood said of her outfit choice. “And that you don’t have to wear one if you don’t want to, and to just be yourself because your worth is more than that.”
Meanwhile, at the Grammys, musician CeeLo Green donned a head-to-toe gold outfit, including a gilded, textured head mask. Although the internet had a lot of fun making fun of the get-up, CeeLo didn’t give any sound explanation for the costume-y ensemble.
These outfits teach PR pros to make bold choices, but not simply for the sake of standing out. In Wood’s case, her suit was a unusual choice for a female actor, but she wore it with the intention of empowering women. On the other hand, CeeLo’s lack of explanation or acknowledgement of his getup gives the impression that he wore the outfit just for attention.
Making a bold or gimmicky choice while designing a campaign could generate buzz for your organization, but choices made with clear intention that connects to your brand’s mission ensure positive responses from audiences, rather than simply short-lived amusement from the internet.
Measure as much as you can
In the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards experts weigh the probability and attempt to predict the winners in the most sought-after categories, specifically the acting honors, Best Director, and Best Picture.
In past Oscars ceremonies, however, there have been upsets that differed from predictions of seemingly certain winners. At the 2006 Oscars, Crash won Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain, even though Crash hadn’t even earned a Best Picture nomination at the Golden Globes and lost out to Brokeback Mountain at the BAFTA’s.
This year has a few fairly certain winners. With wins at the Globes, BAFTA’s, and SAGs, Viola Davis’ chances to win for Best Supporting Actress are currently at 1/50. The numbers associated with her nomination indicate an almost guaranteed win, but it’s anyone’s award until the envelopes are opened.
Similarly, PR professionals should engage in measurement activities to plan for launches and new campaigns. Although there is no absolute measure of how audiences will perceive a campaign, metrics, such as the social media response of past campaigns and a baseline analysis of sentiment and volume of media coverage in the weeks leading up to your launch, will allow professionals to prepare as much as possible.
Although PR work differs from the film industry, PR practitioners could learn useful lessons from watching the award ceremonies. As you settle in to watch La La Land (presumably) sweep at this year’s Oscars, take notes about how the show can teach professionals to plan authentic, stand-out, and measurable campaigns.