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PR lessons from Walt Disney

7th May 2017


The song ‘Let it go’ from ‘Frozen’ was recently voted the most popular song among prison inmates in the UK. And this surprisingly popular film amongst inmates also offers powerful lessons for anyone wanting to achieve great results in their communications, PR or social media.

The original concept for the film was a story of a naughty, young Queen Elsa who was initially conceived as a villain. Yet when songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez set out to write ‘Elsa’s Badass song’ they soon realised they were writing a ‘transformational song’, with Elsa as a vulnerable girl, who ends up a powerful woman. Incredibly, the film was rewritten to suit the song.

Likewise, to achieve great strategic insight or creativity and results in your communications, PR, or social media, you need to juggle different elements of your task at the same time, rather than follow a strict linear path of thinking, with one thing following another. The posh term for this is ‘heterarchical thinking’.

For the craft of storytelling producing a mini-film script, or a would-be nonsense song – your very own version of Let it go – will spark new insight, and get your creativity to come alive more quickly.

There are three reasons why this works:

1. Great stories, songs – and strategies – have a theme

The defining characteristic of any outstanding story is that it has a ‘theme’ – a one or several word emotional bridge between you and others. Is Frozen a fairy tale about a young queen with magic powers, or a story of ‘redemption’ that creates an emotional resonance, a bond with you and I?

It’s not just every great story or song that needs a strong theme, but also every outstanding strategy. How can your strategy possess the most commanding theme potentially available to it, unless you have explored this dimension at the outset? Thinking visually or lyrically triggers your mental quest for a theme.

2. You think metaphorically

A metaphor is the most formidable communications tool to overcome barriers, walls of rejection or any indifference or reluctance to engage. Is Elsa a fairy tale queen or a flawed heroine, someone struggling to on the guilt of the past and move on, with a bold defiant message of “The cold never bothered me anyway”?

Why are metaphors so powerful? The answer is that metaphors work like a message that operate on a number of different levels: you may reject one level of a message, but another part of it may still get through.

Again, visual content creation or song-writing, are extraordinarily mighty agents to stimulate your search for metaphors.

3. You harness the ‘integration’ stage of the creative process

A creativity myth is that you have a flash of genius, a moment of divine inspiration to generate your mastermind insight or idea.

The reality however, is that creative idea generation is a haphazard, messy, non-linear process; the quicker you get your hands dirty with the task of addressing the film or visual content, the more likely you are to incrementally shape, build and arrive at your answer for more powerful narratives, themes and metaphors. Creativity is not so much in a flash, more like a flush.

In our new era of video and visual-led communications, the answer to achieving greater success in PR, communications and social media is to learn the creative lessons of the song Let it Go and the film Frozen. By developing both your skills in both storytelling and video or visual comms – like Elsa in Frozen, you can transform yourself – and your world.

Article written by Andy Green, founder of consultancy Story Starts Here



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