What do Elizabeth Holmes, Tommy Lee, Pamela Anderson, and King Charles all have in common? If you keep up with today’s television scene, you may know that these celebrities have all recently become central characters in television series dramatizing the events and scandals of their lives. The Crown, a television drama recounting the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II, recently experienced negative attention that required public relations intervention.
Though The Crown has grown in popularity since its first episode was aired in 2016, unlike other television series, the show also gains more critics and detractors as each new season moves forward in time, covering more scandals pertaining to working members of the royal family. Criticism intensified when Queen Elizabeth II passed away one month before the release of Season 5, which would focus on a particularly scandalous period of Prince Charles’ life. Critics of the series were unhappy with Netflix’s decision to release Season 5 despite the Queen’s passing and the inevitable attention the season would draw to the next King of England. Careful scrutiny of what The Crown’s communications team did next can yield big payoffs for PR practitioners.
By studying PR strategies used by The Crown’s professional communicators, PR people can learn how to pitch to their target audiences, better manage crises, and market potentially divisive messages. Though the stakes were high and all eyes were on The Crown, their communications team made it through the storm by focusing their messaging and taking accountability.
Build loyalty by staying focused.
The Crown’s PR team helped garner interest in the newest season while avoiding more negative attention by directing their messaging to past viewers of the show and fans of royal family history. The advertisements for the upcoming season were simple, featuring simple headshots of the new cast standing in front of a wall with cracks in it. Viewers of the previous season or those already familiar with the family’s history would understand that this imagery was foreshadowing the intense pressures the family would face later on in the season; however, no messaging was added on top of these photos, keeping the shock factor and potential for criticism low. This strategy proved successful when Season 5 made its debut on Netflix as the #1 show that week.
Similarly, when public relations practitioners need to market polarizing products or ideas, they will find success as they focus their efforts on specific publics. PR pros cannot convince all the world that what they are promoting is the best option. Instead, they should identify a few key publics who will likely be interested in their product and design messaging specifically for them. This messaging will be more effective, and in some cases, may even allow these teams to save time and money.
Accountability equals authenticity.
The weeks leading up to the release of Season 5 saw several actors, British politicians, and public figures voicing concerns that viewers unfamiliar with British history were in danger of accepting everything seen on The Crown as pure fact. Finally, Dame Judi Dench wrote a letter calling for Netflix to add a disclaimer stating that The Crown was a dramatized version of events in the opening scenes of each episode. Series creators continued to defend the artistic value of the show, but also added the requested disclaimer to the trailer for Season 5.
PR pros can emulate this strategy by remembering that they can defend their clients while also being willing to improve. Choosing to change in response to criticism and sincerely apologizing for mistakes will do more for your brand’s credibility than almost anything else. Brands that are slow to acknowledge fault and accept accountability are lambasted much more harshly than those who are willing to listen.
Good PR is universal.
Just as The Crown’s PR team won viewership for this upcoming season, you too can help build client brands by marketing to key audiences and being honest in all your work. Though these are methods often used in the entertainment industry, good PR is applicable no matter where you work. Your future clients will thank you.
Line Maile is a student at Brigham Young University. Line loves cooking, dancing, and getting lost in a good book or documentary. She has always loved writing, problem-solving, and building relationships, but found a home in PR when she realized that she could pursue all three passions full-time. Now, she loves working to strengthen organizations from within and connecting with people from all over the world.