I love binge-watching television shows on Netflix, especially since the service allows you to watch multiple seasons at once instead of having to wait each week for a new episode of a show to air. While browsing through my suggested titles, I came across a comedy gem that has quickly become one of my favorites, Schitt’s Creek. The Canadian show, created by father and son team Eugene and Daniel Levy, is about the fictional Rose family, which includes parents John (Eugene Levy) and Moira (Catherine O’Hara), and adult children David (Daniel Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy).
Once modern royalty due to the success of John’s ‘Rose Video’ chain of stores, they have fallen on hard times after the government seized their property because their crooked business manager allegedly failed to pay taxes. This leads to the family moving to the Podunk, rural town of Schitt’s Creek that John once purchased as a joke gift for David, simply because of the name. This fish-out-of-water saga is filled with awkward hijinks, culture shock and gut-busting laughs. It’s also filled with lessons that can be applied to public relations; read on to learn six of them.
6 Public Relations Lessons from ‘Schitt’s Creek’
1. Have a Backup Plan, Just in Case
It’s important to always have a Plan B and avoid “putting all of your eggs in one basket.” In Schitt’s Creek, if the Rose family hadn’t have bought the town as a joke purchase back in 1991, they’d be homeless and living on the streets. Luckily for them, they have this one asset that the government allowed them to keep as a backup plan. They are forced to move into the town’s only motel and squeeze their formerly lavish life into just two modest rooms.
Just like having the town to live in saved them from a more undesirable life, your business should have a backup plan (on a smaller scale, of course!) Are you investing all of your marketing resources in one place or only purchasing advertisements on one social platform? Instead of throwing your money into one tactic and hoping for the best, do your research to find out the top couple of places your primary audience is and plan accordingly. For example, a company’s marketing dollars would be better spent on LinkedIn or a business blog if they are trying to reach business professionals, while a company selling beauty products might do better on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook or YouTube tutorials.
2. Assign a Qualified Spokesperson
As the Rose family tries to pick up the pieces in Schitt’s Creek, one of their first major wins is a commercial deal with Herb Ertlinger’s Winery. Moira, a washed up former soap opera TV star, was given the role because the winery owner was a big fan of her show. Having a spokesperson to speak for your company is a smart idea to control your public image, although in Schitt’s Creek, Herb Ertlinger was probably better off choosing someone other than Moira, as she struggles to pronounce the brand’s name correctly on camera and throws diva-like fits as she is challenged by acting after a long hiatus.
I recommend having a point person on your public relations strategy at all times; you never know when you might receive a media request or a customer complaint that needs to be attended to in a timely manner. Make sure you spokesperson is representative of your brand and is well-versed in what to say and what to avoid when speaking to the public. Unlike Moira, your point person should always be up to date with the latest company product offerings, and always share factual information with consumers.
3. Cultivate Strong Relationships – You Never Know When You May Need Them
Too many times on Schitt’s Creek, the Rose family insults the members of the town because they are not used to living without the luxurious comforts of their former life. However, the townspeople are always there to help them out. After living in the Schitt’s Creek for nearly a year, the Roses begin to form strong relationships, gain employment and even fall in love. These friendships strengthen over time and help get the family out of many sticky situations. Just like in the show, public relations is all about forming, cultivating and nurturing strong relationships.
Communication is a personalized process that requires attention and care; excellent media relations are achieved by creating key relationships and going above and beyond. To be successful in media relations, take time to craft a compelling story angle for your story that journalists will appreciate. Send them thank you notes when they write about your business. Always be there when they need to reach you and they will see you as a reliable source of information.
4. Make Your Message Clear – Or You Might Regret It
You have a message you want to share with the world, but is it clear enough for your audience to understand? In Schitt’s Creek, the Rose family faces strong opposition with members of the town over ambiguity in the town’s welcome sign. When John first sees it, he is shocked to find it features a man and a woman in an inappropriate-looking position. As an outsider, he immediately sees this as a problem since he is trying to sell the town.
Worried the offensive sign might scare away potential buyers, he takes on the city council to change it, however this doesn’t go over well with the small town folk. When John learns that the man in the sign is City Founder Horace Schitt, the town’s Mayor, Roland, tells John that the woman in the image is actually Horace’s sister, not his wife. Roland promises to make the message clearer, by adding an additional sign that says, “Don’t worry – it’s his sister!” thinking this will fix the situation. As you can expect, it doesn’t help much.
Is your brand’s message falling victim to ambiguity? Keep these four elements of a strong story in mind as you communicate with your consumers:
- Theme: One of the first elements of a good story is to set the tone, or its theme. If you are not clearly establishing the world your company lives in, your customers may not understand the message you are trying to get across. Know your industry and audience well so you can target content to them appropriately.
- Plot: Good business communication should offer your audience something of value (like a how-to article) or a piece of news they previously had not known. Before you begin to write your content, be sure you know the main message you want readers to take away after they read it.
- Structure: If you are unable to organize information in a coherent structure and present it to readers in easy-to-understand sections, you risk losing them to those who can communicate the message better. If you have a large piece of research like a whitepaper, you can break it up into smaller articles or share it on social media.
- Characters: In all good stories, it’s important to have solid characters. Letting readers and fans into your world is a great way to include them and make them a player in your story. You will also be able to establish industry credibility, making you a top influencer in your field.
5. Honor Your History
Like Roland’s desire to keep the inappropriate town sign in place in order to preserve his family’s history, your business should also honor and share its journey with your audience. A great way to do this is to take advantage of various hashtags on social media, like #ThrowBackThursday. Use this as an opportunity to share old company photos, stories and events. You can also help your customers get to know your team members by including them in your social posts; your audience will appreciate being included in your story.
6. Get to Know Your Audience
Like all of the Rose family, David Rose is a little out of touch with reality. In Season 1, he finds himself short on money and in possession of too many luxury clothes. To try and make some money, and free up some closet space, he decides to sell some of his designer labels to a local consignment store. Unfortunately for him, he is not successful in selling an $840 shirt at a rural thrift shop. The fact that he thought he would means he was out of touch with his audience.
Are you in sync with your customers’ desires, motivations and actions? If you feel out of the loop, start by spending time where they are so see what types of content they are liking, sharing and engaging with. If possible, offer a customer survey where you can learn more about what products they like and areas where they see room for improvement within your company.
So far two full seasons of Schitt’s Creek are now available on Netflix; have you watched the show? What other PR takeaways have you identified in between the laughs?