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5 PR lessons from 'Back to the Future'
2015-10-23
Only once in my life have I ever rushed to see a movie the day it premiered.

That was in November 1989, when my two friends and I raced out of our high school in Palo Alto, California, to go see "Back to the Future, Part 2."

The excitement was high because we knew that in this film, Marty McFly would travel forward in time. We were all anxious to see what that future held.

We were in awe of the opening scenes with all sorts of futuristic gadgets (like the hoverboard), but none of us gave much thought to the actual date Marty traveled to: October 21, 2015.

Now that we have reached that future date, I can’t help but reflect on certain key PR (and life) lessons I learned from the "Back to the Future" movies.

Here are five things PR pros can learn from Doc and Marty:

1. Don’t go overboard.

Marty gets a little (OK, a lot) carried away playing Johnny B. Goode. In PR, it’s never a good idea to get too carried away with anything.

Yes, when it comes writing press releases, pitches or guest posts for clients, passion is good, but don't get carried away. Nobody likes to have a gym full of prom attendees (or clients) staring at them.

2. Don’t forget who your friends are.

The relationship between Marty and Doc is remarkable. In spite of the age difference, and the fact that one is a typical teenager while the other is an eccentric scientist, they maintain intense loyalty to each other.

It’s critical in public relations to establish relationships with clients, reporters and others in the field, and to keep them. I am not suggesting you will be as close as Marty and Doc were, but it’s a good model.

3. "Don’t be a slacker, McFly."

Mr. Strickland accused Marty of being a slacker (like Marty’s father). But as Marty responded, “History is about to change.”

[RELATED: Learn communications techniques at our upcoming conference at Microsoft's headquarters.]

In PR, you cannot ever be a slacker. To be successful, you must stay on top of the news, what is going on with your clients and what reporters are writing about. You may slack on the weekends, but be on your game when the weekend is over.

4. “Nobody calls me chicken."

Marty gets set off when someone accuses him of being “chicken.” At the end of "Back to the Future, Part 3," Marty learns not to challenge idiots who call him names, and he changes his life as a result.

In PR, you must keep your cool at all times. Don’t fly off the handle if a client gives you a hard time, a reporter turns down your story or things don’t go your way. Ignore it and move on.

5. "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything."

This is the most important lesson to succeed in PR: Just put your mind to it.

What seem like impossible tasks in the PR world can get accomplished if you decide you can do it. Work together with your clients, and you’ll achieve amazing results.

Bonus Lesson: Make your own future.

Doc's wisdom is one of the most iconic lines in the trilogy. "Your future hasn't been written yet. No one's has. Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one."
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Vivian Li

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Tel: +86 010 8390 7451

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