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4 PR truths from Joan Rivers at IWNY13

4 PR truths from Joan Rivers at IWNY13

Internet Week 2013 really brought out the fangirl in me. Joan Rivers and Fred Armisen were both satisfyingly smart and hilarious, while proving to be right at home at an event dedicated to all things webby. They both expertly spoke about the intersection of tech and comedy, but Joan Rivers in particular shared advice for success that any PR pro would be wise to consider – if they haven’t already.

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Comedy, like PR, is experiencing a rapid, web-fueled transformation

When asked why she chose to take her saucy series “In Bed with Joan” to YouTube and not say, network television, Joan’s answer was simple. On the web, she could do and say whatever wanted – free from the censors.

PR has been experiencing the same transformation, from a traditional style to a free and open-web based approach. For us, this has been both a blessing and a burden.  Mark’s previous post, lamenting the loss of the career reporter, pointed out the challenges of a noisy, overcrowded marketplace full of hype and redundancy. I’m inclined to agree, that’s not really progress. However, I certainly won’t deny the merits of the web and just as comedy has had to adapt to emerging media, PR will continue to do the same. We have to find a way to stand out, above all the hype and wannabee experts because this transformation is ongoing.

Joan Rivers is relevant, she goes where you go

Joan River’s zinger brand of humor might not be for everyone, but she remains on our radar because she is constantly making herself relevant. Joan stressed that she loves ‘right now’ and while she herself may be aging [internally, but less so externally – badum-ch], she doesn’t want to be considered part of the older generation. Yes, bringing “In Bed with Joan” to YouTube allowed her the freedom to do and say what she wanted, but it was so successful because that is where her young, relevant and irreverent fanbase was rabidly consuming content. That wasn’t luck – that was adapting and remaining relevant to the audience. As they moved away from network television, so did Joan.

This is a lesson that is true for all PR pro’s working with a client, especially on social media initiatives. Relevancy is probably going to be the biggest indicator of success for any social media activities. By now we should all know it’s not enough to ‘be’ on social media, you need to be on the right social media. Do you understand your audience and what platforms they are using? How do you engage them and make them care? Those are the questions you need to be asking. Not how many platforms can we be on at once. Do one thing really right, instead of multiple things wasted. This leads me to the next lesson, research.

Being funny takes research, the foundation of any successful PR campaign

Joan River’s assured the audience a comic can’t just “be” funny on command. There is a lot of preparation. How do you stay relevant or successfully navigate a transforming media landscape? You research the heck out of it. Many celebrities employ huge PR or social media teams and sure they are successful issuing a statement after you say, throw something out the window – but few know how to connect directly with the fans. To be a powerhouse comedienne like Joan, you need to be knowledgeable about your industry and your fanbase. If you are going to be a guest on “In Bed with Joan” you can be sure she is doing her homework – she is monitoring the news and the gossip, watching your shows, listening to your music, and keeping tabs on her fellow comedians.

I think the connection to PR here is pretty straightforward – just as Joan’s comedy appears to be a natural talent, it’s actually the result of a lot of behind the scenes work. PR is just the same, while that media hit or recent award win should appear to be a natural fit, it’s actually the result of a lot of ongoing research and preparation.

Don’t tweet out controversial things to try and gain more Twitter followers

While this works for Joan, who freely admitted that sometimes she just tweets out sensational name calling to see who’s paying attention on Twitter, that is probably something PR people should avoid. There is a time and place for the PR stunt, but it’s not Twitter. Leave the Twitter warring to Joan; she is much better at it than you or I.

Joan River’s advice struck a chord with me because it applied to her life, my life and my career. Some things can be boiled down to simple truths and if there is anyone I’d like to deliver me some simple truths, it’s Joan. Also, if you are planning to watch some of “In Bed with Joan” I highly suggest waiting until you get home. Or at least close your office door. It’s saucy, but in that uniquely Joan way that makes you love it or hate it. We should all be so lucky.


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