The hit Netflix show ‘Orange is the New Black’ is about to release its next season! Fans of the show, including myself, have been waiting a full year to find out what is going to happen at Litchfield and the inmates whose fates were left in the air. To prepare for the new season, I have re-watched the entire series from the beginning. As I went through each episode again, I noticed quite a few lessons that can be used in public relations. Keep reading to discover eight tips from the show.
What is Public Relations?
Before we dive into the lives of Piper, Red, Dayanara and the rest of the ‘Orange is the New Black’ gang, you need to understand public relations.
Many businesses are intimidated by PR and confused about how it can really help their organization reach new potential customers. The job of a publicist is to tell the story of a brand, company or product. PR professionals use many channels including the relationships we have built with journalists and reporters, content we share through social media platforms, blog posts and e-newsletters, as well as any other channels available to us to share news and information about the brand we represent.
Publicists spend a lot of time writing, re-writing and writing some more (with a coffee break here and there), in order to accurately and positively highlight what makes our clients so special and worth talking about.
One of the important things to understand about public relations is that it’s not advertising. With advertising, you pay to control the message, where it is seen and how often it is seen – but it is often ignored and distrusted by consumers. Public relations is the opposite; the media decides who they will talk about and what they say through unpaid editorial coverage – consumers often pay more attention and trust these reviews and articles. While there is less control in the message, the value of what they say far outweighs what can be purchased on any ad space.
8 Public Relations Lessons from Orange is the New Black
The great thing about public relations is that businesses and entrepreneurs can also take advantage of most communication channels. Plus, they know their brand better than anyone else, making it easy for them to talk about! The following 8 lessons will help in your public relations endeavors.
- Build a Reputation
The ladies of Litchfield have established identities for themselves in their community. Red is known for her food and magic in the kitchen, Sophia is an expert on hair and makeup, and Yoga Jones is, you guessed it, a yogi who tries instill a sense of peace and reason into the prison.
As you get started on your public relations campaign, think about how you want to be known. What is something you are really good at? You can do a lot of things well, but focus on the one thing you do great and make that what you are famous for. Build your reputation around that one product or service and make sure everyone knows they can rely on you for it.
- Partner Up
Throughout the seasons of the Orange is the New Black, there have been many partnerships between the different families and with the guards and staff of the penitentiary. The alliances formed have served the needs of both the inmates and officers, and have added some intense twists and turns.
You, too, can benefit from creating partnerships for your company’s public relations (although we recommend leaving the drama to the show). Collaborating with industry professionals as a guest writer or contributor for their publications will help you gain credibility and visibility while providing content and new traffic for them in return.
Another form of partnership to consider is mentorship. One of the parties gets the benefit of the acquired wisdom from the industry and connections to people they can work with, while the other increases their authority and gets the satisfaction of knowing their knowledge will live on. Each person strengthens their brand reputation, which then helps build his or her PR efforts.
- Establish Relationships
Litchfield is full of relationships between the inmates and few scandalous affairs with the staff as well, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Within the prison, bonds form to create family circles. When things go sideways for a member of the unit, the rest are there to support and help them.
In public relations, relationships are significant to your success. You need to build personal relationships within the media in order to get your brand out there. When forming a bond with journalist and reporters here are some things to keep in mind:
- Establish a personal connection between your brand and them.
- Respect their deadlines and terms of communication.
- Find a way to create a win-win; don’t leave the relationship one sided.
- Stay in touch periodically to see if there is a way you can help them.
- Thank them for any coverage they are able to provide for your brand. A handwritten thank you card they receive in the mail can go a long way in reinforcing your relationship!
- Give Background Details
One of the things I love about ‘Orange is the New Black,’ is that you get to see a glimpse into the pasts of the inmates. These flashbacks give you a sense who each person was before and often reveals the road they traveled that lead them to Litchfield.
When reaching out to the media, provide details that support the story you’re pitching; facts and statistics show the full picture and validate your position. By including them in your pitches whenever possible and appropriate, you give the journalist the backstory of your brand.
- What You Do Today Will Affect Your Tomorrow
Another important lesson to take away from the backstories of the Litchfield crew is that the decisions and actions you take today affect your future. As I said earlier, public relations is about telling a story about your brand. Whatever choices you make, even if they seem fantastic in the short-term, ensure they won’t have a negative, long-lasting impact on your brand in the days or years to come. Damaging your reputation can be detrimental to your brand and can be hard to recover from even with the best public relations strategy.
- Be Human
The flashbacks into the lives of the inmates let you see them as more than criminals; they all have different pasts and reasons for why they ended up in Litchfield. Seeing these paths and the reasons for their decisions makes them more relatable.
As you put your public relations strategy into place, don’t forget to be human and add some personality. What makes your brand relatable to the audience you’re trying to reach? Use this in your public relations! Being human also means knowing you’re not perfect. Stay open and humble when getting feedback on your PR efforts and use that information to improve your plans.
- Push the Boundaries
The ladies of ‘Orange is the New Black’ are not strangers to pushing the boundaries. From Piper’s secret business to Taystee’s job as a secretary (which leads to the final moment of season 4), they’re not afraid to grasp at an opportunity they see and use it to their benefit.
While you’re working on your public relations, if you see an opportunity to shake things up, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and grab it! Growth happens when you push the boundaries. As Mary Tyler Moore once said:
“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.”
Are there any angles, ideas or outlets you’ve thought would be an interesting fit for your brand but haven’t had the courage to go for? Now is the time to go after it!
- Don’t Give Up
No matter where the ladies have come from and how they ended up in the prison together, there is one thing they all have in common: none of them have given up. Every one of them has adapted to their lives as inmates and they’re all still fighting for their dignity, beliefs, and rights as people to be treated fairly in a corrupt facility.
This is the most important lesson to take away from the show. Even when you feel like nothing is going the way you envisioned, don’t give up – keep fighting! Analyze your results and think of ways you can improve your efforts for the next round. Adapt to new situations and developments and overcome the obstacles that are placed in front of you.
Who knew that a group of female inmates could hold the keys to successful public relations? I am anxious to see how the next season pans out and what other pearls of wisdom the women of Litchfield will have!