De_revolutionibus_orbium_coeleftium

Today I’ve set myself the random task of writing something that includes:

  • Bruce Willis
  • The Renaissance astronomer Copernicus
  • Rupert the Bear
  • Indestructible sofas
  • Crotchety journalists
  • Illuminated manuscripts
  • A jack-in-the-box.

No pressure then. Let me know if you get to the end. OK, here goes….

I had lunch this week with a former editor of a national newspaper [tick]. He retired a week ago and is thinking about what to do next. PR is one of a number of options that he has been considering.

What he wanted to know is this:

“Three months from now, what do you think I’d wish I’d known before giving PR a try?”

I said that everything he’d need to know he’d find in the work of the Renaissance mathematician and astronomer Copernicus [tick]. (He raised his eyes of course. I could feel him thinking “pretentious %$£%@£$”).

Copernicus’s big breakthrough was working out that our solar system does not revolve around the Earth. It revolves, of course, around the sun.

Moving from a job in which you have your hands on the steering wheel – and you feel as though you are the center of some sort of universe – to one in which you have to serve the needs of others requires a similar shift in mindset to the one that Copernicus went through.

The key, of course, is in not losing touch with your authority as you move into orbit. There is a still the same place for the application of expertise, counsel and the odd “no”. It’s a healthy change to go through. Orbit requires maintenance – and constant maintenance is a good thing.

I see the ease with which some transition to a freelance, orbital life – and I see situations in which they don’t.

That orbiting point these days applies to any business that is serving customers. We used to be brand managers. These days at best we’re brand shepherds.

It’s easy to be forgotten in orbit, so sharing interesting stories that your customers are going to want to share in turn is really important if you want the sun to continue to shine on you and your brand.

My pub quiz subject is Eighties action movies – Bruce Willis [tick], skyscrapers, Nakatome Corporation, indestructible sofas [tick], wouldn’t it be easier to train astronauts to drill than to teach drillers how to be astronauts? That type of thing.

The thing I like the most about them is the predictability. The plots are carefully choreographed down to the nearest second. The ‘break into two’, the ‘dark night of the soul’, the ‘bad guys close in’, the ‘all is lost moment’, the finale.

The design is as precise as the pattern for a Savile Row suit. What makes these movies work especially well is the emotional rollercoaster. They draw you in. You root for the hero.

It’s the same in most good movies, whatever the genre.

There’s an excellent book by Christopher Booker called the Seven Basic Plots. Everything in films and books that works well is built around one or other of these seven structures.

And of course, the same applies in successful PR. Creating an engaging narrative that leaves your reader hooked on the fortunes of your brand is what it’s all about. Too much PR, unfortunately, seeks to trade off stunts that have a jack-in-the-box [tick] value but little lasting residue. There’s no call to arms.

As we travel to and from work, browsing our mobile devices (which I guess Copernicus would see as Illuminated Manuscripts [tick]), it’s the stories that are truly engaging that leave a trace in the minds of readers and stop them from swiping away.

Which I guess brings me back to my starting point. Everything we need to know about good storytelling and marketing is in stories or books that we already know. Well, structurally, at least. Rupert the Bear [tick] annuals, as I have explained before, tell us everything we need to know about social media and structuring narratives for the digital age.

Right, that’s Bruce, the journalist, Copernicus, Illuminated manuscripts and a jack-in-the-box out the way. I hope you got this far [tick?].

 

 

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