PRSA General Session [National Conference Recap]

Courtesy of Shannon Jack, Ohio Northern University

Session: PRSA General Session

Presenter: Morgan Spurlock,

Recap: To be a good storyteller, “You have to be ready and willing to take criticism,” Spurlock said as he showed photos of him as a 10-year-old ballet dancer, growing up in West Virginia. The second thing you need to be a good storyteller according to Spurlock is a good support system, whether it be family, friends or professional colleagues. He also continued to emphasize being a little different, trying new things and mentioned the criticism he received when he had the idea to create Supersize Me.

The story behind his award-winning documentary was that he had just eaten a bunch of McDonalds was sitting on the couch when a news story came on that two girls were suing McDonalds for making them obese. That’s when the lightbulb went off and he turned to his vegan girlfriend and said that he was going to eat McDonalds for 30 days straight and see if these girls had a claim. He thought of this documentary as, “A way to talk about a serious topic in a funny way.”

Spurlock said that he never could have imagined the impact that Supersize Me had on the country and world. “You can plan for impact and how you hope to affect change,” he emphasized. The movie started generating buzz, getting people interested and sparking conversation. “How can we create change out of the impact we made?” is a question he posed to the audience. His answer to this? He decided to create an inexpensive education DVD and lesson plans for teachers to help put this in the minds of young students — the future of America’s health.

“Don’t be afraid to do things that other people think are crazy.”

The next movie Spurlock created, “The Greatest Movie Ever Made”, was all about advertising, product placement and promotions and was all funded with money from advertising, product placement and promotions. It took him nine months to get his first sponsor, Ban Deodorant. After Ban hopped on other brands began becoming interested, which proved the point that he made that no one wants to be the first but once other people hop on, others want to as well. Twenty-two brands came on board as sponsors and there were over 3,000 product placements which broke records. “A lot of this was storytelling and a lot of this was marketing and that is the same thing,” he said.

“Today there are more homes for digital content than ever before,” Spurlock said. And he has used this to his advantage by creating more videos and giving the content away to help reach the largest number of viewers possible, as well as catering to new audiences, including millennial females.

“The more risks you take, the less risky things do inherently become,” which was another big theme of the session.

Three main takeaways from Spurlock’s session:

  • Be the person who helps people and who people like.
  • Take those risks. Don’t be afraid to push yousrelf, your friends, and co-workers further than they ever had before.
  • Plan for change.

Also, stayed tuned for Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken, which recently premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Spurlock may not have stuffed his face with fast food for a month but he did open a fast food restaurant and raised his own chickens.

Cayli Allen is a public relations major at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she serves as the Chapter president of PRSSA. She interns in the Radio Marketing Department of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and works as a Promotions Assistant for Cromwell Radio. You can chat with her on Twitter:@Cayli_Allen.

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