Five PR Takeaways From Groundhog Day

January 31st, 2014
by Ellis Friedman

Five PR Takeaways from Groundhog Day Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuceGroundhog Day, the Howard Ramis film starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, long ago achieved cult status. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about Phil Connors, a self-involved weatherman who goes to Punxsutawney to cover the Groundhog Day ceremony and finds himself reliving Groundhog Day over and over again.

That’s right woodchuck-chuckers, this Sunday, February 2, is the real Groundhog Day, and in honor of its approach (and hopefully the imminent arrival of spring), we examine five PR lessons from the 1993 film.

Recognize your shadow

At its core, the film is about a man who sees his own shadow and realizes how his actions impact other people. Just like Phil finally learns that love, kindness, and being a better person overall are what’s important (and ultimately broke his cycle of eternal February 2nds), PR pros – and people in every field, for that matter – can benefit from stepping back, reassessing, and figuring out what’s really important.

Do number of tweets a day matter, or whether or not you are engaging with your communities? Is it important to churn a white paper every month, or to create four quality white papers in the year? It comes back around to getting rid of GIGOGarbage In, Garbage Out. Focus your energy on what’s important, and you’ll come out with a better result.

Engage on a deeper level

In the middle of all his Groundhog Days, Phil stops being cynical in his broadcasts and instead speaks poetically, and ends up drawing a considerable audience. He also engages more deeply with Rita to ultimately win her over, and gets to know almost everyone in the town. You probably don’t have eternity on your hands, but you can make the effort to interact with people and their digital presences more genuinely.

Ask and answer questions, got beyond what’s required for clients or consumers, and really listen to and notice what’s going on around you. Don’t forget to connect with yourself, too, because engagement isn’t about answering questions, it’s about being a connected part of a community, and you can’t engage if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

There will be a tomorrow – use it

Phil asks a phone operator, “What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.” In the real world, there’s always a tomorrow, and unlike Phil, you can’t act like there won’t be.

Our actions now impact what happens in the future. What’s great is that in knowing that there’s a tomorrow, you can make plans, so don’t skimp on the metrics. Analyze your situation, measure the progress and efficacy of your PR campaigns, and examine recent patterns and trends to accordingly reorient your direction.

Turn negatives into opportunities

When Phil realizes he’s living the same day over and over, he turns to suicide and crime. But he makes a real turning point once he realizes that he has the opportunity to do things he’d never done before: ice sculpt, play the piano, learn a foreign language, get to know everyone. Phil turned a negative – eternity – into an opportunity to improve himself.

We all know the adage about learning from your mistakes, but it’s true. However the only way to learn from said mistakes is to acknowledge them in the first place. It can be embarrassing or disappointing to stare your imperfection in the face, but coming to terms with past errors can make you more effective at what you do.

Don’t keep doing things that don’t work

Phil may have turned to crime and suicide, but he stopped once he realized it wasn’t working – he didn’t stay dead, and it seems the allure of crime wore off. Neither should PR pros continue doing things that don’t work. Not getting enough bites from media pitches? Change your pitching style, who you’re pitching to, and the content you’re pitching. Not getting enough shares from online content? Change your content and the way you share it.

Change seems hard, and it is, but shaking up your game – and measuring your progress – is the only way to break bad habits and see real results.

The overall takeaways? Use your setbacks and failures as opportunities to learn. Didn’t get as much media coverage as you’d hoped? Examine what happened and use that experience to pivot into more coverage next year. Stalled on a project? Use that lag to determine what went wrong and how it can be fixed, and you’ll avoid that problem again, making tomorrow’s projects even better.

And oh yeah, don’t drive on the railroad tracks.

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