3 PR lessons from ‘The Interview’

The goofy comedy about North Korea led to a massive hack and security concerns. Here are a few things PR pros can glean from Sony Pictures’ handling of its release.


Sony Pictures’ “The Interview” has drawn quite a bit of attention with its scheduled, then cancelled, then re-scheduled release. Despite the threats of international violence, Sony released the film in a handful of theaters and online, to the approval of free-speech advocates. I’m one of the people who have watched “The Interview” in the few weeks it has been bouncing around the Internet. Here are three PR lessons from the film’s release: 1. Don’t cancel. PR practitioners who have a crisis communications plan in place for their campaigns know you never cancel your scheduled interviews for fear of creating negative attention for yourself and your brand. A few days before ‘The Interview’ was scheduled to release, the American public watched as stars Seth Rogen and James Franco dodged the media and cancelled interviews. Perhaps their dodginess drummed up more curiosity about the film, but it didn’t help Sony’s decision to cancel the release of the movie. Voices advocating the studio not buckle to the hackers’ demands only got louder. 2. Don’t give in to online bullies. ​ Sony may have damaged its reputation in the short term by giving into initial threats from North Korea to halt release of the film. When countries such as the Czech Republic received the same warning, they immediately cited free-speech rights as a reason to release the film without a hitch. Remember who you are when making decision about your public relations campaign. Don’t give in if it compromises your values. 3. Create a controversy. A film about the most secretive nation in the world? Canceled interviews and online pirating? “The Interview” was one of the most followed movie releases of all time. By creating a film with such a large possibility for error, both at the theater and on a global scale, ‘The Interview’ managed to grab the public’s attention and hold it for much longer than its 112-minute run time. It didn’t matter if the movie was good or not. People were enthralled.

Beth Adan is a publicist at Three Girls Media, Inc., a boutique public relations and social media management agency located in the greater Seattle area. A version of this story original appeared on the company’s blog.

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