3 PR lessons from zombies

Zombies might be dead, but their popularity certainly is not.

Many filmmakers, movie fans and those in the
gaming industry
have heaped tributes upon George A. Romero, who co-wrote and directed
“Night of the Living Dead.” Romero died Sunday at age 77 after battling
lung cancer.

Romero is credited for bringing zombies to the big screen. Though he
directed films that included “The Crazies,” and “There’s Always Vanilla,”
none had such an effect on the film industry as “Night of the Living
Dead”—along with “Dawn of the Dead,” “Day of the Dead,” and “Land of the

In honor of Romero’s life and legacy, here are three lessons brand managers
can take from zombies:

1. Don’t give up.

Romero won the hearts of movie-goers and filmmakers, but at the beginning,
he struggled to capture studios’ interest.

Los Angeles’ Times
Tre’vell Anderson wrote

It was the night of April 4, 1968, and George A. Romero was driving to New
York City from Pittsburgh on a mission: In the days to come he was to meet
with film studios in hopes that one might buy the horror film he was
lugging in his trunk, “Night of the Flesh Eaters.”

None of the studios was interested, but Romero still managed to get his
$114,000 film in front of audiences that year. And though critics panned
the picture, retitled “Night of the Living Dead,” moviegoers were
mesmerized — packing theaters, hitting the drive-ins in droves and making
Romero the father of the modern movie zombie. Romero’s “Living Dead”
franchise went on to create a subgenre of horror movie whose influence
across the decades has endured, seen in movies like “The Purge” and TV
shows like “The Walking Dead.”

If multiple journalists reject your pitch, don’t throw in the towel.

Instead, assimilate any feedback you can get and take a long, hard look at
why your story might not have appealed to those you contacted. Reshape your
story—or go back to the drawing board—paying attention to your coveted
publication’s guidelines, its readership and current hot topics.

2. Always be prepared.

Online quizzes such as “
How long would you survive in the zombie apocalypse” have infiltrated the internet, but the undead aren’t the only obstacle
over which PR and marketing pros should remain vigilant.

Crises can break in a matter of minutes, especially online.

Brand managers must be ready to respond immediately, often with information
that might not be readily available. One way to overcome this problem is to
continually monitor trends, news and consumer sentiment that could damage
your organization.

PR and marketing pros can also use zombies (and those who fight them) as
role models for campaigns involving preparedness, as Illinois did this

In March, NBC 5 in Chicago reported:

The Illinois House adopted a resolution last month designating October of
this year as “Zombie Preparedness Month.”

The living-dead-legislation, sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Emanuel
Chris Welch, encourages Illinoisans to learn about natural disasters and
take steps toward stockpiling three days’ worth of emergency rations.

“I am told that if you are prepared for zombies, then you would be prepared
to deal with a natural disaster like tornadoes, blizzards, natural
disasters of any kind,” Welch said on the House floor in February. “You
would have proper food storage, you would’ve identified a place where you
would go for shelter, and you’d be prepared for a natural disaster.”

3. Don’t be afraid to embrace a trend.

Content marketing and social media successes are often won by brand
managers who recognize a popular trend and quickly insert themselves into
the conversation.

The same thing happened with the zombie genre. One only has to look at the
success of shows such as “The Walking Dead” and the bountiful selection of
films about the undead to see how much others have taken off with Romero’s

The Guardian

In the last 20 years, Romero’s zombie genre was reinvented and gussied up
in various ways. Danny Boyle’s
28 Days Later
put zombies back on the map, making them scarier and more athletic – able
to run, in fact, which gave them a new edge on the uninfected. And Edgar
Wright’s madly successful
Shaun of the Dead
tapped explicitly into Romero’s strain of black comedy. Then came the
massive worldwide smash World War Z and
the TV show
The Walking Dead. George A Romero had very mixed feelings about these colossal hits; he
described himself wistfully as someone who “used to be the only guy in the
zombie playground”. But once the big names moved in, few were interested in
his own new pitches for modestly budgeted zombie movies, in which the
satire thrived by being left implicit.

PR and marketing pros don’t have to “zombify” their messages, however.
Instead, remember that content which stands out often takes a new angle or
approach to a trend (such as selfies, listicles or

viral tweets


When jumping on the bandwagon for a trend—whether that’s by partnering with
an influential Instagram user or tweeting replies to a trending Twitter
hashtag—insert your brand’s voice and personality into your messages, and
make sure it’s natural. Just as zombies have a distinct odor, insincere or
pandering messages can be detected from miles away.

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