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4 timely PR lessons from William Shakespeare
2016-04-27

In the 400 years since his passing, William Shakespeare’s works have continually inspired writers and teachers—along with marketers and PR pros—worldwide.
The famed wordsmith’s poems and plays have been taught in classrooms for centuries. If you haven’t curled up with a copy of “Macbeth,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” or “The Tempest” since your college days, perhaps it’s time to brush up.
Whether you’re “in fair Verona” where Romeo and Juliet had their star-crossed romance, or in a boardroom in Verona, New York, consider how these famous quotes might affect your marketing efforts.
Here are four PR takeaways from the Bard of Avon:
1. Be decisive.
The next time you’re faced with a dilemma, disagreement or unrealistic deadline, consider “Hamlet”:
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them.
Shakespeare depicted Hamlet as a tormented young man, procrastinating and dithering when considering the two outcomes of his looming decision.
If PR pros overdramatized every choice, clients wouldn’t stand for it. When tasked with conceiving a social media strategy for a product launch—or if you have to turn around a press release in a matter of hours—don’t waver. Instead, let Hamlet’s fate guide you.
“Inaction can be toxic, as Hamlet found to his cost,” Weforum.org says.
2. Be prepared.
Although some pros might think they do their best work off the cuff, Shakespeare would advise the opposite.
From “Henry V”:
All things are ready, if our mind be so.
Although most PR pros aren’t also Boy Scouts, many possess a strong sense of preparedness. Preparation is essential, especially in advance of a potential crisis.
A well-thought-out crisis communications plan can help your clients anticipate a consumer blowback and can help you fend off disaster for your organization.
3. Know how to give a speech.
Shakespeare depicted England’s Battle of Agincourt through the eyes of Henry V.
Although Shakespeare’s version of the 100 Years War was written 200 years after it occurred, there’s a reason people remember it: His stirring words were spoken powerfully and with purpose.
The same rules apply in PR. A feeble, shaky speech won’t cut it. To make a strong pitch to a stubborn reporter or convince a client that you have a crisis under control, your words and demeanor must be bold.

RELATED: Speechwriters — Join our new LinkedIn group and meet the world's best executive communicators. Get FREE tips and strategies too!

4. Be genuine.
A compelling message connects with audiences because it’s relatable.
From “Hamlet”:
This above all; to thine own self be true.
More and more, consumers choose a certain product because of the brand’s values and how PR teams convey them to the public.
“Accurately translating the truth of who we—or our organizations—are at our core, is critical to good story telling, which is what we do,” Shonali Burke, CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, says on her blog. “This is one of the most important things we need to remember as practitioners and advisers to our clients.”
Honesty—or lack thereof—is a common theme in many of Shakespeare’s plays, and it’s something many PR pros can relate to.
From “Richard III”:
An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told.
Although many pros pride themselves on being able to spin stories in favor of their clients, most pros’ best practices do not involve distorting the truth.
“It’s one thing to craft elegant messages,” Burke says. “It’s quite another to create facts where none exist.”
When crafting a message for your brand, be honest. When bringing that message to life in your marketing and social media efforts, don’t lose sight of what you set out to do.
Side note: Don’t listen to gossip, especially when it jeopardizes the integrity and image of your brand.
Here’s how Othello learned the hard way, from Weforum.org:
Life was going pretty swimmingly for Othello until he started listening to [the] scurrilous gossip-monger, [Iago]. The scheming traitor falsely convinced him that Desdemona had been unfaithful, so Othello smothers her to death, learns that she was innocent all along, then commits suicide. … [D]on’t be rash: check the source and more importantly the motivation behind rumors.
What lessons would you add to this list, PR Daily readers?

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Vivian Li

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