When you put two chicks with theater degrees and insatiable flares for melodrama in one office, you’re bound to get a show. Dresden and I met onstage, and never fail to wear our actor hats to every meeting.
When I started at the firm, one of the first things she noted was how fine the line can be between public relations and theater.
At first, I wasn’t exactly sure how that could be true (“But so many successful actors are less-than-excited about the media!” I brooded in my naiveté). The more time I spend in this field, however, the more I’m realizing just how similar they are.
It’s a fun game that I like to call “new and exciting ways to use your acting degree in a field that isn’t acting.”
Here’s what I’ve learned to far:
1. You have to know your audience
I think most actors will agree with this one: it would be extremely unadvisable to walk into an open-call audition for The Phantom of the Opera having prepared a Taylor Swift song. The folks behind the table want to see how you can best serve their cause; how your voice and your quirkiness will suit a specific role they’re trying to cast. Along the same lines, it would be utterly blasphemous for a PR professional to pitch a story about the largest pizza ever made to an economics-focused journalist. If you’re an actor, they’ll think you showed up at the wrong audition, and if you’re in PR, they’ll think you meant to send the pitch to someone else. Oops.
2. First impressions are everything
A professor once told me that there are casting directors who can tell within 10 seconds of your entrance into the room whether or not they’re going to cast you. You’ve barely finished introducing yourself and they’re already peeking out the door to see who’s next in line or (if you’re lucky) they’re drawing up your contract instead of taking notes on your performance. In PR, you want to be memorable. You want potential clients to think of you when they have a story to tell. A strong handshake, eye contact, and a good joke will go a long way. Make ’em laugh, ooze confidence, always be genuine, and they’ll think of you the next time they have a juicy story to tell.
3. You need to dress the part
First and foremost, it’s best to always be yourself and to be comfortable with how you’ve chosen to tell the world what you’re feeling today. When you’re comfortable, those around you will also be comfortable. However, if you’re meeting with a client in the corporate world, you’re probably not going to wear the same comfy corduroy/flannel combo you’d likely don for happy hour with your trendy millennial sustainable restaurateur clients. Similarly, if you’re auditioning for the Radio City Rockettes, you’re probably not going to wear the floor-length gown you wore to last week’s Sound of Music audition.
4. Subjectivity matters
Everyone is compelled by different things. Because no two individuals have lived the same life, no two opinions on what makes a story good or bad, interesting or boring, worth sharing or worth ignoring, will be the same. It’s important to remember that every client, like every theater patron, will appreciate different things. The thunderous laughter you got for your spot-on comedic timing may not be echoed at the Sunday matinee. And in PR, there’s really no exact science behind how viral or unnoticed your content may be. It’s a roll of the dice in both arenas, and you never know until you try.
5. It’s all about telling the story
Clients come to us when they feel strongly about telling the world what they’re doing. We love seeing high energy, positivity and enthusiasm from our clients when they’re truly passionate about their cause. It’s our job to take that enthusiasm and to focus it and polish it so that when the world hears their story, it will see its reflection in the sheen. That same college professor told me that no play was ever written about the day that nothing happened (and if it has, it’s certainly not winning a Tony award any time soon). Every word is written for a reason. The characters we play on stage are the clients with which we do business. It’s our job to love and serve our characters as it is our job to serve our clients.