Three PR Lessons Learned from “Stranger Things”

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Strange human experiments, Russian espionage or supernatural phenomena? What happens in the secretive National Laboratory in Hawkins, Indiana? These are the questions running through the minds of the citizens in the fictional town of Netflix’s smash-hit “Stranger Things.” Hawkins National Laboratory is a central aspect of “Stranger Things,” and those running the lab made quite a few PR blunders (among other terrible things) that led to trouble for the town.

PR students can learn a thing or two from the lab’s leader, Dr. Owens. His choices teach us what not to do. So, I’ve got 3 tips to help improve Hawkins National Laboratory’s PR strategy that will be—as fan-favorite character Bob Newby said— “easy-peasy.”

Reach out.

Deep in the secluded woods of Hawkins, an ominous government structure can be seen squatting in obscurity, bordered by an impenetrable barbed-wire fence—keeping the townsfolk of Hawkins ignorant of the secrets within. That’s the image of Hawkins National Laboratory and it’s not a good one.

To fix the image, Dr. Owens should reach out to the community and try to become a part of the town. Remaining a government mystery may bring unwanted attention; i.e. Nancy and Jonathan working to expose the lab’s secrets in season two.

One suggestion is to get involved with Barb Holland’s family. Let’s be honest, it’s the lab’s fault that Barb died. Since no one else in the town cared to look for Barb until season two, Dr. Owens and the lab could reach out and show solidarity. Maybe then people would start to trust the lab.


Pay attention.

Rotting pumpkins covered in strange slime were red flags for Chief of Police Jim Hopper but Dr. Owens refused to believe it was related to the lab’s work, endangering the town. What’s the lesson? Always engage in environmental scanning. You never know when the next crisis could occur so be on the lookout for troubling trends and potential PR complications.

Now Hawkins National Laboratory is responsible for the deaths of people and pumpkins—they can have fun cleaning that mess up.

Partner with opinion leaders.

There’s one thing we can all agree on—Jim Hopper is great. Most of the town thinks highly of him too, including Dr. Owens. However, the friendship between these two is not public knowledge. If the people of Hawkins saw the lab and Hopper working together, then opinions about the mysterious government scientists might improve.

You don’t have to be a sketchy government agency to put these strategies into practice. All good PR managers should focus on developing mutually beneficial relationships with the public, scanning the environment and partnering with opinion leaders.

Didn’t believe there were lessons to be learned from Netflix? Well, stranger things have happened.

Jake Gulisane is a senior at Brigham Young University studying public relations with a business management minor. He loves science fiction novels and movies that make him think.

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