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Three PR Lessons from the Movie “Draft Day” (and the NFL Draft)

by Drew Miale

Today is the NFL Draft, and as a football fan, it’s one of my favorite events. Every NFL fan has hope for the future as their favorite team makes their picks from college football’s best players. And the pre-Draft hype creates excitement and debate among fans, the media and other “experts.” There’s even a movie about it – Draft Day – starring Kevin Costner. And while fictional, the movie captures the drama and inter-workings of the event. I’ve watched it several times, and I’ve picked up a couple of PR lessons from the film.

1. Making a “big splash” isn’t the only answer. In the movie, the Cleveland Browns have the (highly coveted) #1 pick. While the general manager (Costner) normally makes the draft selections, the team’s owner wants to “make a big splash” and select the top college quarterback. However, the team doesn’t need a QB, and the college player is not a fit for their needs or culture. Of course, the conflict builds...

How does this apply to PR? Clients (or execs) often want “the big splash” from the media – national business press coverage. While this is a great win, potential customers in the tech industry might not read The Wall Street Journal every day, but they do read CIO Magazine or their favorite technology trade publication. So, the lesser-known trade outlets might be a better option to reach your buying audience. There’s more than one way to achieve your goals.

2. Getting everyone to agree is challenging. When the Browns are deciding who to pick – and trade – there are competing interests among ownership, the front office, coaches, players, and fans. Ultimately, the general manager has to make a decision. Costner says (repeatedly) “I’m going to do what’s right for the team.”

How does this apply to PR? In PR, there are many competing interests to balance and people to make happy, but ultimately, when it comes to the media, you need to decide what is the best approach.

3. Sometimes, you need to get really creative. Costner trades away the #1 pick, causing several issues, but it allows him to get multiple (lower) picks in return to help build the team that he envisions. It’s short-term pain for long-term gain.

How does this apply to PR? While people talk about bold ideas and “out of the box” thinking, are we willing to do that when there’s risk involved? Create big ideas (within reason) even if there’s some risk. While unpopular, it might be the best way to go.

So, enjoy the NFL Draft and check out Draft Day if you can. I’m curious to hear your thoughts about both, and if you agree with the lessons above.


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