3 PR lessons from a Netflix crime show

An infatuation with documentary “Making a Murderer” has taken a hold of many Netflix subscribers. Within the thought-provoking series though, a few PR lessons have emerged. Here’s what PR pros can take away from the episodic thriller taking the internet by storm.

This article was originally published on PR Daily in January 2016.

Crime documentary shows and programs are popping up all over the internet, radio and television and the release of Netflix’s crime documentary, “Making a Murderer,” is no different.

It’s success however, has come greatly in the form of online commenting and theorizing from fans on various platforms. In addition to consuming the lives of many binge-watchers, for PR pros, the series—which follows the story of Wisconsin’s Steven Avery, who was charged with what many are calling an unjust murder in 2011—brought to light a few lessons in storytelling. Here’s how Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” relates to public relations.

Take all the time you need

“Making a Murderer” wasn’t created by Netflix on a whim; rather it was filmed over the course of ten years by writer-directors Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi. By following one of the most notorious cases in Wisconsin’s criminal history for more than a decade, these filmmakers proved that in some cases, strong storytelling really does take time—and it pays off. A public relations campaign is very similar; it often takes months or even years to see noticeable results or experience a change in public perception.

Create a hook

The name of the show is a bit misleading but does the trick for piquing viewer’s interests and teasing them to watch further. From the title, you are led to believe there is some sort of education or teaching to turn the main character into a murderer. This is not the case. The show is an episodic trip through several famous criminal cases in Wisconsin revolving primarily around one man, and the arguably suspicious police work involved.

RELATED: How to create a consistent message across multiple internal platforms.

Create a hook to draw your audience in. Use a teasing headline or ask a thought-provoking question. By fascinating and intriguing your audience early on, you’re likely to get them to pay attention until the end.

Add a human element

The most riveting aspects of “Making a Murderer” are the personal interviews and narration from the voices of Stephen Avery and his family. This window into his personal life gives the viewer a first-hand account of the intense emotions and impact the trials had on the families involved. As there was so much information to absorb surrounding these cases and the people involved, that desire to know more made it nearly impossible to stop watching.

Add a human element to your public relations campaign and show your audience a piece of your world. Social media is a great way to reach your customers and include them in contests, comments and polls.

Have you seen Netflix’s new documentary series, PR daily? What other PR lessons can you gather?

Beth Adan is senior publicist at Three Girls Media. A version of this story originally appeared on the firm’s blog.

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