What “The Interview” taught us about public relations

by | Jan 9, 2015 | Public Relations, Social Media

Sparking controversy has historically helped increased attendance at, and revenue generated by, theatrical movie releases.

From North Korea threatening action against the U.S. should Columbia Pictures release The Interview, to being hacked and having private employee information (and embarrassing emails) leaked, 2014 was a year of controversies for Sony Pictures Entertainment. Not only did these events generate publicity for Sony, but also elevated the anticipation for the theatrical release of The Interview.

Now experiencing overwhelming digital success, The Interview’s eventual release has presented many lessons in public relations. We’ve identified three (of many) key takeaways from The Interview’s controversial launch and how media monitoring can help you leverage these points:

1. Scandal will always spark conversation.

Controversy can increase the revenue generated by your product, much like it did with The Interview, but it can also increase the earned media your launch campaign generates. Regardless of whether this earned media is positive, neutral, or negative, each new article, blog post, or comment is another opportunity for potential customers to see your product or service and create their own opinions (which hopefully they will share with others).

Now, it’s hard to keep track of all these conversations because they can be happening over traditional media (like print or broadcast), or using digital mediums. But media monitoring via software can keep track of all these conversations regardless of where they’re taking place, and identify your influencers.

Word of mouth is one of the most influential ways to raise awareness of a product, and media monitoring and analysis can help you leverage public opinion to continue generating buzz around your product or service.

2. If customers can’t have something, it makes them want it more.

It’s human psychology that if we can’t have something, it typically increases our desire to have it. Besides being a fundamental storyline in many romantic comedies, this compelling truth is also, in part, what made The Interview a huge success. We thought we wouldn’t be able to see it, so it made us want to see it more.

Use social media to hint at your product launch, and use media monitoring to gauge your target audience’s sentiment towards it. If, after careful analysis, the sentiment is extraordinarily positive then wait a bit to release your product.

Let the anticipation build, but make sure that you don’t wait too long (you don’t want your potential consumers to get frustrated). But if sentiment is underwhelming, neutral, or negative, tweak your product and launch plan to reflect this feedback—and make your product more appealing to the customer.

3. Making your product directly accessible from nearly anywhere can increase your ROI exponentially.

Sometimes it’s difficult to get your product directly into the hands of consumers, but if you can, there’s great success to be had. In this respect Sony made The Interview easily accessible to their consumers by releasing it on video on demand (VOD), accompanying the limited theatrical releases.

Not only did their VOD releases dominate their theatrical releases in sales, but it also allowed their customers to access the movie whenever they wanted, wherever they wanted, increasing its viewing potential.

Using social media monitoring can give you great information about your target audience. From psychographics to demographics, you can use this information to pinpoint what outlets would be best when looking to launch your product.

Did The Interview teach you any interesting lessons about public relations? Let us know in the comments!

Sara Chisholm