For those out there who are Doctor Who fans (and I suspect that MHP blog readers are included in at least some of the 7 million Doctor Who watchers), the end of this half series of the BBC’s sci-fi flagship undoubtedly provoked a moment of sadness.
But it’s also worth a moment of admiration as a PR professional. Not for the publicity the show received. But rather for what the show teaches us about the incredibly important art of storytelling.
Because the recent runs of Doctor Who have been an object lesson in that so-critical element of PR skill – the creation of a sustained narrative arc.
So we PR professionals owe Stephen Moffat and Matt Smith gratitude for much more than providing an hour of entertainment every Saturday. In fact, we should thank them for providing a lay example that helps answer that perennial PR training question: “What is the difference between good and bad PR?”
For years I have tried to articulate an answer to this question based on explaining the difference between exploring and creating a narrative for your client (good) and just pushing out tactical and unfocused media relations (bad).
And I know I am by no means alone in our industry in making, and trying to explain, this distinction.
But now, instead of having to rely on corporate case studies (much as I love them, I can sometimes see my audiences yawn when I wheel them out…), I am now going to explain our aims through the medium of the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River Song.
Think back all those seasons ago. It is only now that we as viewers realise that the Doctor Who storytellers knew exactly where they wanted to take us and that we’ve been pulled along by them on a narrative journey that has lasted years.
Without realising, we’ve been shown clues, facts and had our views effortlessly shaped.
We’ve never got bored, never felt lectured at or ignored. Admittedly we’ve occasionally been confused, but then we’ve never been patronised so we have seen that confusion as a sign of intelligent challenge, not frustration. Finally we see a whole picture, and we are left wanting to seek out even more.
Each step has still been exciting. Each episode has in addition used a good tactic to entertain us. But each has also formed part of the seamless whole narrative and the producers never used a tactic that disrupted their narrative aim and destination, however tempting it may have been to do so.
So thank you Doctor Who producers. I now have a completely different example that I am going to use to illustrate the aims of good PR “101”.
But maybe before I use it I need is a counter-example.
I need to show a contrasting drama that is completely disjointed and thinks that a series of unconnected plots somehow adds up to an overall story arc.
Any suggestions MHP blog readers?