The Don Draper Guide to Public Relations

April 4, 2013

By: Michelle
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“Mad Men” returns on April 7th, and while numerous storylines remain a mystery (Will Pete still be a jerk? Is Peggy happy in her new career?), you can bet that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce's golden boy Don Draper will be wowing clients with his hip, off-the-cuff campaign concepts. While advertising and public relations are two different media disciplines, there are elements of Don Draper's approach to the ad business that can be applied to PR.

  1. Know your story. “What you call love was invented by guys like me … to sell nylons.” That was Don Draper explaining how his ad concepts don't sell products, but instead tell stories that reach the consumer on a deeper, less transactional level. When you pitch your story to the media, your goal should be more far-reaching than the immediate story placement at hand. Instead, speak to a larger trend that is impacting your client's industry. That kind of storytelling is what keeps reporters coming back for more.
  2. Take a stand on an issue. After the agency's biggest client, Lucky Strike, decided to part ways, Don wrote a controversial op-ed piece, “Why I Quit Tobacco,” for the New York Times. His decision to present a contrarian point of view about marketing cigarettes raised eyebrows and changed Sterling Cooper's image in the marketplace. If your company has a stance or approach that is different than others in its industry, capitalizing on that can open unexpected doors.
  3. Creative is key. “We're going to sit at our desks and keep typing while the walls fall down around us because we're creative - the least important, most important thing there is.” In the world of Mad Men, the ad salesmen want to be part of Don's esteemed creative team. Pete even went so far as to come up with his own slogans for Bethlehem Steel – much to Don's dismay. Some ad men even write science fiction on the side. The point? All the schmoozing in the world won't keep a company loyal if the ideas and concepts are bad. The best PR team is constantly coming up with fresh new ideas and pitch angles.
  4. Be in the driver's seat. “If you don't like what is being said, then change the conversation.” This may be the best and most relevant Don Draper tip on PR. Companies rely on PR expertise to help them craft messages that change perceptions, boost visibility and position them as thought leaders in their respective industries. That requires the skill of driving engagement and participation in an ongoing conversation.

What's your favorite Don Draper-ism?

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