Five PR Lessons from ‘The Walking Dead’

By Jane Wang, Director at PRLab


a1(Source: Jacob Stolworthy (2017), “The Walking Dead season 7 episode 13: Badass Carol returns in the trailer for ‘Bury Me Here’)

It’s been seven seasons. How can these characters still be alive with many walkers around them?

Just like The Walking Dead, uncertainty and surprises are a norm in the communication world, except we would never run into the walkers. There are several takeaways from the critically acclaimed show that PR practitioners can utilize in the ever-changing industry.

  1. You need a plan.
a2(Source: Araceli Cruz (2014), “13 Reasons Why Maggie and Glenn Can’t Die on ‘The Walking Dead’”)

Whenever Rick Grimes wants to initiate action with his team, he has a plan.

He conducts research on the geographic features of the enemies’ territories. He assigns his teammates different tasks based on their skills and strengths. He provides detailed timelines of whom doing what at what time to ensure the safety of everyone in the team.

When it comes to the world of public relations, a PR plan serves as the guide for your team and your clients. It makes sure that everyone involved in the project is clear with the scope of work and objectives. It also provides your clients an overview of what you will do, how you will do it, and most importantly, what they can achieve with this plan.

  1. Walk your talk and keep your promise.
Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 16.30.42 (Source: WeKnowMemes (2013) (left); Mark (2014),“The Walking Dead Hint from Love Actually” (right))

A plan is obviously not enough.

“Rick Grimes is a man of his words,” said Sandra Gonzalez. The same rule applies to PR practitioners. You have to walk your talk and keep your promises. It increases your teammates’ or clients’ confidence in you and ultimately allows you to build credibility.

  1. Be a team player.
a5(Source: ESPN (2016), “The Walking Dead’s Gale Anne Hurd talks soccer, zombie apocalypse”)

“There’s us and the dead, we survive this by pulling together, not apart.” The core of a community is placed upon each individual as a standing pillar of society.

Within your team, you should recognize each other’s strengths and skills, interact with your teammates, and work as a team. You and the entire team represent the company, and together, serve the clients.

Although PR agencies have different departments, it should break down the silo mentality, ensuring the flow of information to maximize the organizations’ efficiency and advocate for a shared corporate culture.

  1. Storytelling is important but you better make your story clear.
a6(Source: Johnny O’Dell (2015), “The Walking Dead Season 6A Meme Roundup”)

Storytelling is a writing technique that builds resonance and strengthens the emotional connection with your audience.

However, it can’t be a “to be continued” story that doesn’t tell your audience what eventually happens. Your clients want to know what you will do and how you will do it (in the story), but what’s more important to them is what the result is (the end of the story). Remember, ROI is what your clients look for, and it’s your job to tell them a happy-ending story.

  1. Gain experience and perfect your skills.
a7(Source: MoviePilot, 2017)

“How many walkers have you killed? How many people have you killed? Why?” These are the questions Rick or his family asks every time they meet a new character. If we replace some of the words in these questions, it sounds similar to what a recruiter would ask you when you are interviewing for a job or internship.

People are keen to learn about your experiences and skill set, as this information will determine if you are a fit to perform certain tasks. Your experience and skill set builds credibility and makes you reliable when they need your help.

a8(Source: Katy Rochelle (2016), “15 Quotes from The Walking Dead”)