16 Dec 5 PR Lessons We Can Learn from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
On Dec. 18, in a galaxy you’re very familiar with and in just about every movie theater, friends will huddle together in darkness and watch Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. The saga born of George Lucas’ imagination has not only given us gems, such as “Luke, I am your father,” and a spaceship-flying Wookie, but it has also epitomized some of the very best in PR strategies. What kind of PR can you learn from a Jedi? Young padawan, sit and read… 1. Strategic Launch: When introducing a new product, try to get it in front of as many eyes as possible. Star Wars unveiled the trailer for The Force Awakens during the halftime break of ESPN’s Monday Night Football in October. The Spanish language version of the trailer aired simultaneously on ESPN Deportes. Immediately following the trailer debut, tickets went on sale and #TheForceAwakens went into full effect. ESPN Executive VP of Production and Programming was quoted as saying that the two properties – Monday Night Football and Star Wars – “transcend audiences.” Um, OK. Keep in mind that Disney owns both ESPN and Lucasfilm. 2. Give Back: Philanthropy and charity are two big pieces of any successful PR strategy. Star Wars generated more than a few tears when they screened an unedited version of The Force Awakens for a fan, who had terminal cancer and requested to see the newest installment as a dying wish. Daniel Fleetwood suffered from spindle cell sarcoma and was told in July that he had two months to live. The online campaign for him to see Star Wars spurred #ForceforDaniel, and the support of actors Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew and John Boyega. Fleetwood passed away in November, after being granted his wish from Disney. 3. Build the Buzz: The less you know, the more you want to know. In the Nov. 28 issue of “The Hollywood Reporter,” it was reported that Star Wars was the “most intensely watched – and tightly controlled – movie shoot in Hollywood history.” The fervor generated by the movie and by Lucas’ $4 billion sale of his company to Disney led to Disney applying for a drone shield, forcing visitors to put secret tape over their phone cameras and contending with men in trees, posting spoilers. Anyone with any documented proof of the movie shoot became instant celebrities, as the production fought against a social media onslaught. Needless to say, the buzz was fantastic! 4. Understand the Demand: Have enough to go around! Although ticket sales were supposed to go live following the halftime trailer debut, some outlets jumped the gun, and lived with the consequences. According to several news outlets, including Entertainment Weekly, in mid-October, some ticketing websites crashed, and others were extremely slow to load as pre-sales skyrocketed. Fandango.com, MovieTickets.com, Regal Cinemas, AMC Theatres and ArcLight Cinemas were among the casualties. 5. Cross the Generations: All by itself, Star Wars is a big deal. But when you welcome back the originators – Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford – to reprise their roles as Luke, Leia and Han, along with a crop of new faces, you cross the generations. This Star Wars will be one for the entire family, reaching back to the 1977 Episode IV crowd to the most recent Episode III ComiCon enthusiasts. Effective PR finds something to say to every audience. Good media that is.