I finally saw The King’s Speech over the holiday break and loved everything about it. The story was compelling, the central character intriguing, and the character development was fantastic.
And it got me thinking….besides a pleasant way to spend two hours, what else do we really get out of watching movies?
I realized part of why I enjoy films so much is that at the heart of a great film is great storytelling, and really so much of our job involves telling a story about our clients, their successes and their news.
Here is what I learned from watching The King’s Speech and how I apply some of the storytelling methods to PR:
Identify what makes your story and main character compelling.
The central focus of the film is the story of an unlikely successor to the British throne who suddenly assumes the role after his brother bails to marry an American divorcé. Not only is he thrust into the job following a public scandal, but he has an unfortunate speech impediment that causes him to stammer when speaking in public. Through the help of a quirky yet persistent speech therapist, King George VI overcomes his stammer and delivers a rousing public address to motivate the country in the face of World War II.
Well, part of our job involves pitching reporters about our clients’ stories, and some of the most fun ideas to pitch are the profiles on company executives and CEOs. When crafting the pitch, we look for the story behind the person. Did they overcome any unusual struggles to get to their current position? Do they have an interesting personal story, perhaps unique hobbies or interests? (I once had a client who had a large Garfield collection and had an entire room in his house devoted to the cartoon feline. Another client was a smoke jumper/firefighter and managed helicopter operations in the aftermath of erupting volcanoes prior to becoming a lawyer).
Sometimes the most unconventional route is the best one.
In the film, speech therapist Lionel Logue has King George practice a variety of physical verbal exercises to relax his jaw muscles and tongue. They seem odd at first but achieve the desired results – more fluid speech. Often when speaking with clients who are entrepreneurs and small business owners, I find that they took unconventional routes to develop their idea or grow their business. And reporters always like learning that – especially if the entrepreneur did something counterintuitive that resulted in success.
The talents of your team contribute to the success of the leader and the organization overall.
King George overcame his speech difficulty, but he could not have done it without the devotion of his speech therapist and encouraging wife. The same is true for CEOs and executives – their teams are comprised of talented, successful employees who all contribute to the company’s success and reputation. How does the CEO lead his or her team to achieve success and instill morale? How do the employees help improve the organization internally? In one recent interview a client noted that he regularly surveys employees to find out what’s working and what’s not, and uses feedback to improve training and reward programs. Another client noted that her employees asked for dedicated volunteer hours to serve on various community projects, and they felt more productive and invested in the company because of it.
At the end of the day, stories are made of interesting people. But if you can’t tell the story, who will ever know?