"Almost Famous" is the beautiful tale of a young, up-and-coming journalist in the 1960s who is given an assignment to interview his favorite band, Stillwater. He ends up in a world of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Unbeknownst to his overly protective mother, he falls in love with one of the band’s most infamous groupies.
I’ve always considered the movie a masterpiece, but what stood out to me upon my latest viewing, now that I’m a PR professional, is the lessons it can teach us about the world of public relations.
Here are a few key quotes:
“Look at this — an entire generation of Cinderellas, and there’s no glass slipper.”
Elaine, mother of the young journalist, William, drops him off at a Black Sabbath concert. She says this quote after driving past a group of hippies in the parking lot.
Thousands of startups get going each month, making success for any given company nearly impossible. Each entrepreneur is hunting for that famed “glass slipper,” which is, in their case, funding. For these companies, public relations and marketing is often viewed as the magic pumpkin that takes them to the royal ball. The reality is that public relations will only help accelerate those companies that already have a quality product, proper strategy, and a great management team. The combo of these three items and PR efforts is almost unstoppable, but both sides must pull their weight.
“I’m telling secrets to the one guy I shouldn’t be telling secrets to.”
In an interview, Stillwater guitarist Russell Hammond begins opening up to William, quickly realizing that he is divulging insider information to “the enemy.”
It’s important to be down to earth and personable with reporters, but keep in mind that their job is to find the story. Your client should also be aware of this detail, knowing that there is no such thing as “off the record.”
“If you think Mick Jagger will still be out there trying to be a rock star at age fifty, then you are sadly, sadly mistaken.”
The band's potential new manager, Dennis Hope, is discussing with Stillwater why they should ditch their friend and hire a manager with more experience, explaining they should strike while the iron’s hot. They won’t be rock stars forever.
Dennis Hope was clearly wrong about Mick Jagger because he did not believe in his ability to maintain relevancy. How can you defy odds and make your product relevant to reporters? Many public relations professionals send pitches to reporters without looking at the subject from the reporter's perspective. Will this be of interest to them? Their editors? Their readers? Is it timely? Is it even newsworthy? Rock music lived on, and so will public relations, if we continue to be strategic.
“Is it that hard to make us look cool?”
Throughout the movie, the definition of “cool” is an underlying theme. Stillwater’s lead singer is simply commenting on an article about the band, upset with most of the content.
Making your client interesting to the media is a major component of public relations, and yes, sometimes it is difficult to make them “look cool.” Creativity is important; find new and different ways to position your client and the rest will fall into place. That said, don’t get too crazy—clients must understand the importance of consistency in positioning.
The final advice that everyone should take away from this movie:
“Now go do your best. Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid. Goethe said that. It's not too late for you to become a person of substance.”
Or in our case, a substantial PR person.
Kim Cox is an account executive at The Cline Group. A version of this post originally appeared on her LinkedIn page.