As professionals of PR, we know what tools we should use to do our jobs and how we should use them. But we are so focused on writing press releases, getting journalists to listen to us, engaging through social media and creating content that we are forgetting about one of the best ways of all to tell stories (which as you know is a BIG part of our job): film.
Usually, the only references which are made to movies in the world of PR have to do with how they portray professionals either as PR girls (i.e. “Bridget Jones”) or spin doctors (i.e. “Thank you for smoking”). Nobody ever mentions the fact that movies (and I mean films, not YouTube videos) are a PR tool… and an exceptional one at that.
This was brought to my attention recently while taking a Harry Potter walking tour of London. Leaving aside that I should probably be considered a geek because of the fact that I actually took the tour and because I have reflected upon it in PR terms, I learned that JK Rowling asked that all actors and members of the crew be from the UK, so as to promote its film industry and that the producers tried to use as many real film locations as possible, so as to promote the UK and London in particular. The effects of these decisions have been astounding. Just as an example, according to the British Film Industry, Alnwick Castle, the location for Hogwarts, saw a 120% rise in visitor numbers following the release of Harry Potter, which has brought in £9 million in tourist revenue to the area. Even small films can have a big effect: Bend it like Beckham raised the profile of the UK in the Far East.
This is true of films made anywhere in the world. Paris, New York… we know what these cities look and feel like thanks to film, just as we “know” what Queen Elizabeth is like thanks to films about her. Why not use that to our advantage when we try to tell our stories? It might be worth our while to focus not only on journalists when we talk about media relations, but to also consider producers as possible sidekicks.
Yes, it’s important to focus on the new up and coming tools. Most of us agree that social media is the way forward. But it is equally important to not forget what we’ve learnt along the way and not underestimate the power of the seventh art, which has been around longer than PR and might have some interesting things to teach us. After all, “now more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this” (Martin Scorsese).