In the information age, game-changing leaders can emerge from practically anywhere.
One of the most notable cases of this phenomenon has been gamer PewDiePie (known offline as Felix Kjellberg). He’s amassed more than 37 million diehard subscribers to his YouTube channel, where they eagerly await his next gaming adventure.
The space in which PewDiePie made his name—generally referred to as “Let’s Play” video series—didn’t even exist a decade ago.
Nevertheless, he’s leveraged this platform to become a content creator revered by millions worldwide.
Though I can’t say that I follow his content (I’m hardly his target audience), I do think there’s something to be learned from the phenomenon that is
PewDiePie. His specific strengths and value system make for a compelling study for brand managers interested in positioning themselves as industry leaders.
Here are four leadership lessons that PR and marketing pros can learn from PiewDiePie:
1. Engage your community of followers.
PR and marketing pros have to engage with their fans as well as their critics—something PewDiePie seems to understand.
Along with regularly responding to comments and questions on his channel, he also hosts regular fireside chats (known as “Fridays With PewDiePie”), which
are aimed at teaching teens about self-acceptance.
Followers can see PewDiePie is passionate about using his content to connect with people—a strategy that’s just as relevant in the marketing world.
When your community of followers can sense your brand is intensely invested in them, they’re far more likely to latch on for life. One way to show you’re
invested is simply by being interested in the things your community of customers cares about.
Listen, learn, and engage in an ongoing conversation.
It can be as simple as monitoring trends and insights and letting your customers know what’s happening and what they can expect. Be a thought leader, and
interact with them. Ask their opinions on the trends to get the conversation moving.
2. Remain fearlessly authentic.
PewDiePie has his share of detractors.
Whether it’s criticism about the type of games he plays, his brash antics or a denunciation of his annual income, PewDiePie’s comment section is more than
merely a chorus extolling his greatness.
Rather than attempt to win over his implacable critics, PewDiePie puts his energy into generating unique content with which his audience connects.
All brand managers will have to make difficult decisions that will raise the ire of some. As long as they come from a place of reason and concern, it’s
crucial to stand behind them and remain true to what your brand stands for.
Take Starbucks, for example. It went through a tough global crisis a few years ago when it faced increasing competition and an economic downturn. The
company had to
close several locations and layoff thousands of workers.
Throughout the process, however, Starbucks maintained its authenticity by continuing to focus on balancing profitability with social awareness.
3. Never stop taking calculated risks.
If, back in 2005, a friend said he was going to drop out of college and record
videos of himself playing video games, you might have laughed.
For PR and marketing pros, it’s not about blindly embracing the unknown and hoping it works out.
PewDiePie saw where the combination of technology and culture was heading and used this insight to exploit an opening in the market.
Taking calculated risks must be imbedded in your company’s DNA if you want to continue to innovate and grow. At Mitchell, we took a calculated risk about six years ago when we branched out of the typical PR agency model
and invested in a full-service creative division.
This allowed us to offer strategic integrated marketing and communications solutions before it was an industry standard. We watched trends and anticipated
where we thought the industry was headed.
Did we know for sure? Absolutely not—but we were willing to trust our instincts, and it has paid off.
4. Focus on doing great work and success will follow.
PewDiePie routinely denies requests for media access. Instead, he commits to finding new ways to engage his audience—whether through his recent book deal or new YouTube projects.
It’s okay to appreciate the fruits of your labor, but they should be secondary to the task of doing whatever it takes to make your team more
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Brand managers who simply bask in the glow of short-term success will quickly fade into oblivion if they don’t continue to innovate and engage.
Though I’m not a part of PewDiePie’s fandom, the phenomenon can’t be denied. These lessons are applicable to PR and marketing pros across all industries.
What can you learn from PewDiePie?
Sarah Clark is the president of Mitchell Communications Group. A version of this article originally
appeared on Spin Sucks.