Messaging and Mutinies

Many of us at HRmarketer are serious Battlestar Galactica fans, and Friday night's episode was as wild a ride as we've ever endured. For those unfamiliar, the TV show is a remake of an old 1970s space opera, following a ragtag fleet of human survivors after their worlds are devastated by a 9/11-style surprise attack. The attackers: Cylons, mechanical beings who long ago rebelled against their human creators. The quest: finding Earth, the fabled planet where life began.

The fleet is led by the aging battlestar Galactica (hence the title), which is basically a giant aircraft carrier in space. For four years, BSG has used its faraway setting to examine questions about politics, religious extremism, military power, faith, what it means to be human . . . and lots of rocking space battles.

So that brings us to Friday's episode—a mutiny in space. Admiral Bill Adama and President Laura Roslin (the always-wonderful Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell) face a mutiny on the Galactica, spurred by a frustrated senior officer and an opportunistic vice president. As the coup erupts into a full-scale firefight, the body count climbs, our heroes escape the bad guys' clutches, and at the end Adama and his longtime friend Colonel Tigh are trapped in an escape bay with nowhere to go. Traitorous marines are cutting through the blast doors, and they eventually wedge the doors open just enough to toss in a grenade.

And the screen fades to black with three words: "To be continued." The entire neighborhood probably heard the screams in the Lawrence house.

Yet this didn't have to happen, and the reasons are easy enough for any Earthbound marketing pro to understand.

What triggered the mess was Adama's announcement to the fleet that they were going to ally with a faction of rebellious Cylons. (See, they found Earth but it was in rough shape—nuclear holocausts tend to ruin the scenery.) So now the fleet needs to find a new home—any liveable planet—before they run out of food and supplies. Only Bill didn't make much of a case to the fleet's government . . . in fact, he didn't make any case for why they should trust the enemies who destroyed their lives four years ago. He just told them they had no choice, and that's that. Where was Laura to help make the case? Unable to govern, lost in depression from discovering a scorched Earth.

Backed into a corner, Adama believed there was no time for debates—no time to properly explain why these Cylons are different, and how they are humanity's last option for survival. What's the backup plan if they turn on us, the people may have asked? We haven't thought that far ahead, he'd likely answer.

So if I haven't lost you yet and you're still keeping score at home, that's one rushed and incomplete message, a fragmented message delivery, and a non-existent response plan. No concern about the audience and how they might react. And oh yeah, a military revolt with lots of gunfire.

Granted, the stakes aren't exactly so dire for marketing and PR professionals, but is the dilemma really that different? I've lost count of how many news releases I've seen that raise more questions than answers . . . or an announcement that lacks any detailed substance, not to mention an explanation of why their product or service is unique. I've seen story pitches that have zero relevance to the publication they're targeting, and less consideration for why an overburdened editor should care. Worst of all, I've seen releases that are barely literate, as if the writers only cared about "getting the %@#! thing done."

So what's a marketer to do when time and resources are thin?

HRmarketer offers its members a free press release review service, and our media relations advice is equally free. Take the time to properly craft your story pitches and press releases, and develop a distribution plan. Make sure your key players know what to do (and prep a customer or two) should a journalist call.

In sum, let's learn from the Galactica's bad day:

(Um, the last one wasn't really for this audience).

So say we all!

Posted by Elrond Lawrence (PR pro, half-cylon, half-human)

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