Here’s a bowl of PR for breakfast

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a session on Public Relations by Jefferson Darrell, founder of the Breakfast Culture, Canada. Speakers who can blend their expertise with humour are the best and Jefferson knows exactly how to keep you interested.

Being an expert in the field of Public Relations, he briefed us on the most commonly used terminologies: advertising, marketing, branding and public relations and then ran us through the reasons why PR wins over traditional advertising and the fact that it can be effective, credible and cost-efficient at the same time.

He then introduced the marketing trifecta: Earned, Owned and Paid media. To make things more engaging, Jefferson shared two case studies with us. He further challenged us to come up with our solutions, considering those marketing situations played out today. I thoroughly enjoyed both the case studies shared by him. One of my favourite “outdoor” activities other than going to movies is attending plays at local theatres. Oh! And did I mention that I am a sucker for musicals? You’ll now see why I stress on this. Let’s do a quick rundown on both of these case studies.

The first case study was about a theatre adaption of the popular television show from the 70s, Happy Days, produced by Dancap Productions. The production house wanted to target the original audience of the show, which was now grown up. They further wanted to capitalize on the element of nostalgia. Unfortunately, the musical was panned unanimously by almost everyone who saw it. That’s when the real issue for the marketers arises. How do you market a show that you know is a dud? It is a double-ended sword. You’ve got to convince yourself and the world at the same. Of course, you don’t have the luxury of time for either of them.

It was interesting to notice that even though the musical tanked in every market it played, it somehow worked in Toronto. On analyzing the reasons, we discover the power of the public relations. Jefferson’s team focused on going in with a blast and allowed the earned publicity to have its ripple effect for the initial weeks. Only then they deemed it wise to spend on advertising for recall value and finally closed the cycle with promotions.

When something that you are selling is set to doom from the beginning, you’ve got to play it wisely. That’s exactly where good PR can keep your boat afloat. They brought the star of the show, Garry Marshall and made sure he walked the red carpet before the show opened. This was sure to get the eyeballs rolling and earn the much-needed publicity to sell the tickets.

A snippet from Happy Days

Let us move on to the other case study – a theatrically staged musical performance called 3 Mo’ Divas by Marion J. Caffey. Here, three gorgeous divas take the stage by storm with music styles ranging from opera, classical, rhythm and blues, to gospel and jazz, all in one night. Does it get any better? You can catch a glimpse of their performance here.

This project came to Jefferson and his team when social media wasn’t a huge thing. So, reaching the right audience was more challenging than today. He told us how his team made use of the earned, paid and owned media, all within a budget of $20,000. This show celebrates more than two hundred years of music. So, you can imagine the diversity in its audience.

While I thought that Sunday Church would be best to get the footfalls, Jefferson also targeted the African, Caribbean, Black and Queer communities. Paid media took the form of advertising on some specific radio stations like Jazz FM and Proud FM, accompanied by a small investment in gifts and tickets for the listeners of those radio channels. For earned media, Jefferson got Laurice Lanier, one of the stars of the show to create some buzz with a solo performance a few days before the show opened.

Laurice Lanier in 3 Mo’ Divas

Another thing that he did, which in my opinion was absolutely genius, was to turn the opening night into a celebration by inviting popular drag queens and encouraged them to own the red carpet and get their publicists along. What better publicity than divas opening the night for more divas!

I remember he mentioned that they did a breathtaking cover of Defying Gravity. I am already sold! Jefferson, if you are reading this, sign me up as an audience already if 3 Mo’ Divas ever happen again.

It was interesting to explore different areas of advertising in the world of theatre productions. Having done marketing for films earlier, I am still heavily inclined towards the entertainment industry. After my detour to B2B advertising, I see myself tiptoeing in the world of showbiz. Thanks to Jefferson!

Image Courtesy: The Void and (archives)

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