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TODD SMITH — ‘Hamilton’ offers PR tips, lessons for brands


Disney+ has taken center stage once again with the launch of the “Hamilton” movie during the July 4th weekend – and there are valuable PR tips to be gleaned from the smash film.

The streaming service paid $75 million for the worldwide film rights to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical – a price that has definitely paid off with the tidal wave of traffic and downloads.

While the film has bolstered Disney’s streaming platform and entertained fans worldwide, the movie also offers great advice for PR pros, according to PR Daily.

  1. “I am not throwing away my shot.”

Hamilton repeats this phrase throughout the musical (and in the end, dies at the hands of Aaron Burr when he literally throws away his shot by firing his pistol into the air). It’s what drives him to write, fight for justice, defend his clients and build the nation to match his vision.

For PR pros, this phrase has many applications. There’s only a small window to jump on a social media trend or be the first to the table with a clever story pitch that stands out. Not throwing away your shot means taking some calculated risks, combined with creative problem solving and careful preparation. When it’s time, don’t hesitate.

  1. “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”

Hamilton poses this question a few times during the musical as he struggles to understand why Burr constantly plays it safe and doesn’t take a stand on political and social issues.

As more consumers push for organizations to stand up for social justice initiatives and support racial equality, this question has never been more relevant for brand managers and communications leaders across industries. Gone are the days when you could sit out of polarizing conversations, so as not to cause controversy. Instead, consumers and employees are expecting you to support movements such as Black Lives Matter through words and actions.

3. “Have you read this? You ever see somebody ruin their own life?”

After Burr, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson approach Hamilton with evidence suggesting that he embezzled funds, Hamilton publishes “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” which outlines his torrid affair with Maria Reynolds, an indiscretion that Reynolds’ husband James then used to extort Hamilton for money. Jefferson’s response is a shocked and amused declaration: “Well, he’s never going to be president now.”

If members of your organization have messed up, whether they’re employees who have overstepped or an executive who is trying to cover up misconduct, persuade them to get ahead of the story. This involves coming clean and being transparent with the crisis, along with taking responsibility for the fallout and outlining reparations or ways it won’t happen again.

4. “I’m erasing myself from the narrative.”

Following publication of “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” Eliza Schuyler Hamilton burns the letters between her and her husband, declaring that outsiders are not entitled to witness her reaction.

However, the phrase can serve as a helpful reminder for PR practitioners. It’s not all about you and your organization or client. Repeat this to yourself as necessary when writing press releases, crafting pitches, compiling social media messages or drafting scripts for upcoming video content.

When you focus on the bigger story – whether it’s a trend, current event, crisis or initiative – you increase your chances of landing media coverage and resonating with your online community as well as your employees. You don’t have to shout from a megaphone about your products and services. Instead, thoughtfully consider compelling stories and what you have to offer in terms of quotes, angles, expert opinions, data and more.

5. “I want to be in the room where it happens.”

PR pros can sympathize with Burr’s outburst in Act Two.

For communicators, it’s all about getting a seat at the strategy and decision-making table. To ensure your place, focus on being a business professional who can expertly communicate, instead of a communicator with some business knowledge.

You can prove this to executives through data and analytics that uncover audience insights and show the effectiveness of your efforts. You can also strengthen your presence by forging cross-departmental relationships. Consider how you can partner with a digital content or marketing team to repurpose video footage across campaigns or offer your crisis response expertise to internally focused colleagues.

Washington NFL Team Finally Drops ‘Redskin’ Name

Washington’s NFL team finally dropped its controversial Redskins name of 87 years, bowing to pressure  to change a team name widely seen as a racial slur amid the sweeping reckoning over race in 2020.

The decision was expected after the franchise announced on July 3 it was conducting a “thorough review” of the name, a process that was catalyzed by new levels of criticism in a country charged by protests against systemic racism. Politicians, activists and even the team’s own sponsors, such as FedEx Corp., called on the team to get rid of the mascot that dates back to 1933, when the team played in Boston.

A new name hasn’t been announced but is expected soon.

There are numerous replacements swirling about including the Washington Redtails (a unit of Black fighter pilots in World War II), Red Wolves, Generals, Presidents, etc.

From a purely branding perspective, the Spin Cycle votes for strong alliteration like his beloved Tennessee Titans – how about the Washington Warriors? It strikes a fierce identity, and more importantly, is non-controversial.

Buckin’ Mic: The Ford Bronco Gallops Back!

The mighty Ford Bronco is back after a nearly 25-year hiatus!

Ford has revealed its highly anticipated Bronco brand, consisting of three new vehicles capable of being taken off-road into the wilderness, should drivers choose.

While the Bronco is perhaps best remembered from the infamous O.J. Simpson car chase, Ford is marketing the new vehicle to the public while appeasing diehard fans who have continued to follow it for nearly three decades.

Most importantly, Ford is hoping to take away market share from Jeep and its coveted off-road offerings. So far, Ford has made clear this isn’t a nostalgia play or a move toward exclusivity like the brand’s limited-production GT500.

In a partnership with Disney, the Bronco’s reveal took place across ABC, ESPN and National Geographic, with each network running a separate 3-minute ad during the first commercial break after 8 p.m. on Monday, according to Adweek.

Although not exactly a surprise to anyone following the industry, it marks the official announcement of three new vehicles under the Bronco brand: two-door and four-door models, and the Bronco Sport. The Bronco’s tagline is “Built Wild.”

Ford, in its marketing and prerelease communications, dove into the archives, releasing a brand manifesto for the Bronco. In a teaser video released on Instagram, Ford spokesperson Bryan Cranston said the Bronco is a vehicle that “can look adventure in the eye and give it a firm handshake,” with shots of wild horses and clay red mountains. It’s a shift Ford hopes will redirect attention toward the Bronco’s glory years of the late ’60s and ’70s and drive the future of the brand.

One of my most nostalgic family vehicles was a 1979 Ford Bronco, with a blue paint job boasting lime green, white and light blue stripes that Dad drove home one day.

As a testosterone-fueled teen, it was the perfect transport to countless adventures – in the summer heat, we unbolted the top to make it a quasi-convertible (thanks good friend and crew chief, John Dinkins) – through the backroads of my youth. That good ol’ Bronco even survived a breached levee, Evil Knievel stunt at the hunting camp that sent Patton Seabrook and I sailing over a ravine-sized hole, somehow nailing the landing – sort of. We limped to the Greenwood Ford dealer to discover a broken front axle. But Ford covered the replacement because a Bronco axle had never been sheered like that before.

Yup, we certainly looked adventure in the eye, gave it a firm handshake. Thanks, Ford, for the memories, past and future!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» TODD SMITH is co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Deane | Smith, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm – based in Nashville, Tenn. – is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, follow him @spinsurgeon and like the ageny on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deanesmithpartners, and join us on LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/company/deane-smith-&-partners.


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