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What PRs can learn from The King’s Speech

I’ve been smitten by a movie. This happens so rarely that it’s inspired this article. And given the awards already handed out plus the 14 BAFTA nominations and the 12 nominations for the upcoming Feb 27 Academy Awards, I’m clearly not alone in my adoration.

If you haven’t seen Colin Firth, Geoffery Rush and Helena Bonham Carter in the movie The King’s Speech, do yourself a favour and hop to it.

Absolutely anyone who is interested in media and communications, or just any type of public relations or promotions, will love this movie. It covers;

* Public persona

* Relationship building

* How to communicate

* New media

* Music (well, not really, but it does have a gorgeous classically-inspired soundtrack)

And , ultimately…

* How everyone has a voice

Below are just some of the public relations lessons that I’ve taken from The King’s Speech.

Be gracious and hospitable

Make others feel at ease. The Queen (played by Helena Bonham Carter) was stately and regal and clearly at the top of the social stations but she went out of her way to make others feel comfortable when around her.

Who could forget the fabulous line she so kindly spoke to Lionel’s terribly uncomfortable and stunned wife;

“You call me your royal highness first and then ma’am thereafter. And that’s ma’am that rhymes with ham, never ma’am that rhymes with palm.”

If you’re working in PR, chances are you have strong elements of social awareness and charm in your intrinsic personality already. Put them to good use and spread some love.

Which brings me to another point…

Be considerate and nice to everyone

Should the Queen have found herself flung out of the royal family for some reason and had to live among the common that she once ruled over, you’d have been hard pressed to find a commoner that would have had a problem with her because she was both reasonable and kind.

As one of my smart PR colleagues told me (whose mum told him), the person whose toes you step on today could be connected to the ass that you’re kissing tomorrow.

That means that;

* The producer from tiny, Back-of-Beyond FM may well be the Program Director of Austereo / BBC Radio 1 / KIIS / Z100 tomorrow.

* The junior reporter from I love my Pet Monthly may end up as Editor-in-Chief of Vogue.

* And the lowly intern from that small, boutique PR company could well end up being the Promotions Director at a multi-national company that winds up considering whether they’re going to employ you.

Sometimes you’ve just got to step up

Bertie, the Duke of York, had no intention of becoming King. It was his elder brother’s title to take and he was fine with that. In fact, he loved it because he could take the backseat and not have to overcome his fear of public speaking.

But the time came when his brother was unsuitable and Bertie had to decide if he’d step up. Fear nearly prevented him from stepping up. Fear and being too comfortable in the shadows.

In your own work, step up. Take initiative, think past your current role and analyse how what you do can affect the big picture. Work a little bit harder, go beyond your job description – you never know where that may lead you.

Fake it till you make it

The Duke of York had to learn how to do this in order to become King. Even more so, Lionel was a master of faking it till he made it. He wasn’t a Doctor, he had no formal qualifications – he was just a colonial Aussie, back in London, and an amateur theatre actor. But he knew what he wanted to be and do and he went for it.

This said, he studied and worked his butt off to learn what would work best for his clients. He put in the hard yards – difficult work with medically damaged soldiers who’d returned from WWI. But then the rest was bravado and bluff.  In his own words, he had - “No qualifications, just a great deal of nerve”.

Oh, and did I mention that he worked his butt off? No quick fixes people!

Be yourself – don’t ever lose that

At the very end of the movie (SPOILER ALERT!) after the new King of England had successfully made an amazing radio broadcast, one that would inspire the entire nation as it bravely went to war, good old Lionel, in true Aussie fashion, was there to bring him back down to reality.

Lionel – “Not bad. You stammered on the W though”

The King – “Well, I had to throw in a few, so they’d know it was me”

Apart from this being one of my favourite and most beautiful parts of the movie, it’s just so damn true. You can’t keep up a charade for too long and sooner or later, the “real” you will pop out. So embrace it.

PR peeps, if you don’t love constant hair appointments, shoes and shopping and all things “faaaabulous dahling”, then don’t try and be that person just to fit in. Are you more of a hip hop fanatic than a chamber orchestra lover? Are late night gallery soirees more you than early morning runs along the beach? Or are big nights out at clubs or bars, boozing and schmoozing actually not your style? It’s ok, the business contacts that you’re trying to bond with will be just fine with you doing the same over a tea or coffee during the week. Not to mention that they’ll appreciate it when you return emails and cross your t’s and dot your i’s because you’re not hungover, out shopping or at the hairdressers. It’s horses for courses – some media you’ll click with instantly and they’ll end up becoming some of your closest friends. Others you may have nothing in common with but I bet if you look hard enough, you’ll find something there that you both love, without compromising who you are.

But if you’re really struggling to be yourself and can’t find common ground, just remember that everyone likes someone who does their job well!

Embrace new media

On the invention of radio, Bertie’s Father, King George V says;

“We used to only see the public when we went past them in a parade. A king just had to look respectable and not fall off his horse but now we invade their homes, we’re speaking to them while they’re sitting in their living rooms!”

A lot has changed since the westeren world all sat at home listening to their wireless and there’s no escaping that the media landscape is ever changing. Digital media now means that we’re broadcasting every second.

No one wants to be the next Clifford Stoll, who in 1995 published this declamation in Newsweek on why the internet will fail. In Stoll’s defense, he wrote this before Google, back when the web was a disorganised mess. But before being so dismissive, Stoll really needed to look ahead and be a visionary. I personally took a while to get onto Facebook and Twitter. I figured that I spent too much time online as it was and relished my “real time” spent with “real” colleagues, family and friends. But then I delved into the digital world a little more and realised that I was missing out on a lot of contact and information.

Be all encompassing when you’re thinking of media outlets – we’ve moved beyond the big four of print, radio, television and digital now because digital is so massive. It’s news websites, lifestyle websites, blogs, telecommunications, gaming, Facebook, Twitter and apps. And it’s not just for publicity purposes anymore either, it’s click to purchase so, PR’s, we’re well and truly in the sales game now.

Don’t be scared, educate yourself as you go and jump on board.

So that’s my ode to The King’s Speech.

But just while I’m on the subject of movies, Justin Bieber’s ‘Never Say Never’ movie is hitting Australia in early April (it’s just opened in the US). The Universal Music PR team all sat down to watch it one evening last week at an exclusive viewing in Sydney. I’ll be straight out honest and say that I didn’t particularly want to spend an evening off to go and see it.

Am I the correct demographic to be a Justin Bieber fan? Probably not.

Did I think this movie was frickin’ amazing?



In short, the movie is a behind the scenes look at Justin Bieber’s insanely quick rise to fame – within a year he went from being a kid playing music on You Tube (his Mum initially posted clips just to share with family who lived in other parts of the country) to selling out the famous Madison Square Garden. That’s unheard of. No one has ever done that in such a short space of time. And he didn’t just sell out Madison Square Garden, he sold it out in 22 minutes!

I like entertainment that evokes emotion, inspires or educates. This movie did all three.

And it was in 3D which made the concert scenes all the more impressive plus you can preorder the Never Say Never remixes here – he collaborates with some great artists including Usher, Jaden Smith and Kanye West.

And come to think of it, Justin Bieber has also followed some of The King’s Speech lessons – he’s certainly being himself and having a great time doing it.

I’m quite certain that at the beginning he faked it till he made it (with a lot of hard work and talent in the mix).

And he sure as hell has stepped up.

So what are you waiting for?

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