4 PR lessons from ‘Wonder Woman’

Here’s what communicators of all stripes can take from the film, which provides messages of empowerment and hope in the face of darkness.


If Hollywood’s most recent blockbuster is any indication, women can rule the world.

“Wonder Woman” earned $100.5 million in the United States during its opening last weekend, nabbing an additional $122.5 million worldwide.

The Washington Post reported:

Patty Jenkins’s film edged out the previous record-holder, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which boasted an $85.2 million opening weekend and was directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson.

The “Wonder Woman” audiences also didn’t follow traditional superhero film audience demographics, with 52 percent of its viewers being women. Normally, as the Hollywood Reporter noted, 60 percent or more of a superhero movie’s fans are male.

Though many filmgoers are enjoying the movie for its messages of hope and empowerment, PR pros can take inspiration from it, too. Consider these lessons:

1. Take risks.

Superhero movies are becoming more common, but some moves to capitalize on the trend (such as “Suicide Squad,” “Fantastic Four” and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”) were slammed by moviegoers and film critics.

Films that transcend complaints about the plethora of superhero movies are exploring characters in a different light.

Tom Bacon wrote in Movie Pilot :

As mentioned before, Logan was a superhero Western. Deadpool was a superhero comedy. Wonder Woman was a superhero mythological war movie. Studios are beginning to realize that these characters work best in new and unexpected contexts.

You don’t have to be a director or producer to take this insight to heart.

Go beyond tired tactics and explore a new method to engage with audiences online, such as a live-streaming Q&A or crowdsourced ideas for your product’s packaging.

You don’t have to go far outside the metaphorical box to take risks, either.

Chris Evangelista wrote in Slash Film:

… [T]here’s a very clear three-act structure at work here, first introducing us to Diana’s world, then introducing Diana to our world and concluding with Diana becoming the iconic hero she was meant to be. It’s a simple, effective structure that calls back films like the Indiana Jones series and The Rocketeer.

For PR pros, this could translate into spending the time to uncover a story about your organization that your audience (and journalists) crave, instead of crafting a press release full of corporate speak and non-news.

2. Rely on the truth.

The Amazons used the lasso of truth on Steve Trevor to find out his intensions, but PR pros can accomplish the same by committing to adhere to PRSA’s code of ethics and trusting their guts.

The truth always has a way of coming out, usually at the most inopportune time. Don’t set the stage for a crisis; instead, stay on the side of truth, and advise your clients to do the same.

3. Uncover your passion.

“Wonder Woman” touched upon the dark side of humanity when it showed Diana’s struggle to save the world, despite people’s actions.

Evangelista wrote:

“Be careful in the world of men,” Diana’s mother warns her before she leaves the island of Themyscira. “They do not deserve you.” Diana becomes the hero she was destined to be once she realizes that it’s not about “deserve.” “It’s about what you believe,” she says. “And I believe in love.”

“Love can save the world” may instantly seem like a hokey cliche to some, but Jenkins rejects that notion with her film. In the world of Wonder Woman, love really does have the power to save the world. And who wouldn’t want that to be true? Why instantly reject such a notion as cheesy when there’s great strength in embracing it? There’s nothing to be gained from fear or cynicism. There’s everything to be gained through hope.

Just as Diana had to remind herself of what she believed in to continue fighting, PR pros can find their efforts more successful when they’re working for organizations that they support and clients they can stand behind.

The theme of uncovering passion and beliefs also applies to “influencer” marketing strategies.

You won’t often find consumers who are passionate about your product or service, but you can find common beliefs, pain points and desires that you can use to relate to your audience and show them how your offerings fit their needs. That’s the path to building loyalty and brand ambassadors, too.

4. Find your strengths and skills.

Despite her training and strength (and the eventual discovery that she’s a goddess), Diana doubts herself and her mission. It’s only after she faces what her cohorts call an insurmountable obstacle in No-Man’s Land that she finds her power again.

Erik Davis wrote for Fandango:

The sequence features Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman bravely marching across a stretch of unoccupied land in order to reach a village on the other side and rescue its people from German forces. It’s an incredible scene and perhaps the highlight of the movie, but [the film’s director, Patty] Jenkins admits it was kind of a hard sell because Wonder Woman wasn’t fighting anyone or anything.

“I think that in superhero movies, they fight other people, they fight villains,” she said. “So when I started to really hunker in on the significance of No Man’s Land, there were a couple people who were deeply confused, wondering, like, ‘Well, what is she going to do? How many bullets can she fight?’ And I kept saying, ‘It’s not about that. This is a different scene than that. This is a scene about her becoming Wonder Woman.'”

That pivotal scene—and the focus on Diana’s character and growth—add a striking dimension to her story arc.

Alex Yarde wrote in his blog, The Good Men Project:

In the film makers capable hands, Diana questions her place in the world and at her lowest point, if mankind deserves saving, but she never questions her inherent identity. She’s at her core a unapologetically good, confident, martial woman, raised by good, confident, martial women. And that makes all the difference.

PR pros face obstacles every day with digital marketing campaigns, media relations pushes, brand journalism efforts and measurement tasks. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by looming deadlines and lofty goals, and when failure happens, you might doubt your prowess.

Don’t give up.

Instead, evaluate what went wrong—or what’s overwhelming you—and make changes to move ahead more effectively. That might include changing your campaign’s messages to better resonate with consumers or crafting more specific, measureable and realistic goals, but a truthful look at what’s working and what’s not can help set you on the right path.

Remember why you’re in this industry and what you love about PR. Looking at past wins can help you recall your skills and strengths, too.

What messages and lessons did you take from “Wonder Woman,” PR pros?

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