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Hollywood, Comms and Avoiding Yet Another ‘Script’

Like many, I was excited to see the historical sweep by Everything, Everywhere, All At Once at this year’s Oscars. The film’s storyline hit home for me, but what I found most refreshing was the fact that I simply hadn’t seen it before. It wasn’t a remake, it wasn’t another franchise play - it was incredible, thoughtful storytelling.

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once

Credit: Courtesy Everett Collection

Copyright: Courtesy Everett Collection

Its success has come at an interesting time for Hollywood: reboots, remakes, sequels and prequels are king, box office numbers are an echo of what they once were (with 2023’s biggest hits being sequels Avatar: The Way of Water and Top Gun: Maverick) and streaming platforms are trying to find the right balance of original and licensed content to keep growing subscribers. 

It isn’t an unfamiliar cycle and there are major monetary reasons as to why the more “formulaic” storylines work, and why the entertainment industry has gone for what can be perceived as ‘the safe option’ (e.g., quicker production support and the hope of franchise opportunities). 

Taking this attitude and applying it to the communications landscape, the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality is seen many times over - focus on announcements, write a press release, decide on the value of embargoed outreach versus an exclusive, pitch, pitch, pitch and reap the rewards of seeing coverage placed.     

EEAAO broke the mold to deliver something inspiring, and communicators should all take a page from that book to deliver more visionary, ambitious, tailored strategies that bring new life to campaigns. Creative should be viewed through the lens of: If we feel uninspired by the same storyline, how can I expect the media and consumers to get excited?

PR shouldn’t be done in a vacuum

Much like filmmakers, us MarComms specialists must also learn from the cross-genre approach and practice a comprehensive strategy across multiverses (or channels). Comms should fit into the larger marketing strategy – after all PR doesn’t stand for “press release” and there is so much more that can be delivered to produce successful, truly impactful and measurable results. It shouldn’t matter if brands have a combination of multiple internal departments and external agencies. Each needs to understand how different activities fit together to tell a bigger story that ultimately ties back to the key business objectives. 

Big picture thinking doesn’t always mean big bucks 

Given the current state of the economy, budgets are tight and will be for the foreseeable future. That’s why larger MarComms strategies are so valuable in driving engagement from all sides. Going back to the silver screen, take Smile’s gorilla campaign as an example. The eerie grins of strangers made their way onto multiple platforms and tugged on our emotional strings to drive consumer and media conversations leading up to opening weekend. What was a low-budget movie ended up surpassing $200M in the box office, and one could argue the campaign massively impacted its success.  

In preparation for Smile’s release, Paramount hired “smilers” to show up in random places

Credit: @Popbase on Twitter

Don’t forget that media and consumers are people, too 

Oftentimes communications folks can get caught up in trying to sound too formal, ultimately resulting in brands coming off as robotic or unrelatable. While every brand shouldn’t have the same happy-go-lucky tone as the likes of Duolingo, they do need to have a deeper understanding of what makes their audiences tick and what resonates best with them. By starting with what your audience’s needs are, you can find ways to authentically connect with them… and it may not be through traditional earned media outreach. Just as many of this year’s Oscar winners pulled on our heart strings by creatively exploring different elements of the human condition, we should prioritize avenues like inspirational customer stories, individual team member spotlights or influencer content.  

The parallels between storytelling in Hollywood and storytelling in comms are vast, and there’s much for us to learn from each other in how we create compelling narratives that resonate with consumers versus sending people into the endless scroll or passover. Understanding the emotive connection truly makes the difference.  

Interested in chatting with Monica about this piece and how its learnings could support your MarComms strategy? Reach out to us here to chat with her directly. 


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