Six Scary Good PR Lessons We Learned from Horror Movies

Keep these wicked words of wisdom in mind to ensure your marketing and communincations success

By: Kat Ricketts

Whether you’re a fan of horror cinema or not, you’ve likely heard at least a few of the canonical rules for survival—hilariously common sense advice like “never go in a creepy basement alone” or “don’t answer a knock at the door in the middle of the night.” What you may not know, though, is scary movies can also teach us some valuable lessons in marketing and communications.

This Halloween season, as I begin my annual binge of all my favorites, I’ve compiled this list of six eerily enlightening PR tips we can glean from fearsome films.

1. Don’t take shortcuts.

As we’ve learned from flicks like “The Ritual” and “The Hills Have Eyes,” the quickest route isn’t always the safest. Similarly in PR, you are better off being thorough than cutting corners that can compromise your work product. Your team and company will appreciate the effort, even if it takes a bit more time. TLDR: Don’t take the easy way out if it will cost you in the long run.

2. Heed the experts.

There are few tropes in horror I find more frustrating than when characters ignore the advice of the experts. Despite countless warnings to stay out of the woods or avoid the house on the hill, they always decide to do the opposite and pay for it later. The same can be true about communications—as PR pros, our job is to counsel and guide our companies, but we’re also responsible for listening to subject matter experts. People within an organization have knowledge and expertise in the industry that we, as communicators, may not. You can glean valuable insights from experts in your company that can strengthen your work.

3. Stay prepared.

Crisis comms and sinister cinema have taught us to always be ready for the unexpected. Even when things are running smoothly, there’s always a chance that an urgent request or an unforeseen event can occur. Just as you would never venture into a haunted manor without a flashlight or some matches, you should never go into your day without being prepared to pivot.

4. Never split up.

If the “IT” movies taught me anything, teamwork is often the best approach to a complex problem. We all bring different perspectives and can often overcome challenges better as a group than we can as individuals. Even when working on a project independently, remember to tap fellow team members if you get stuck or need outside inspiration.

5. Variation is key.

Remember how Jack Torrance of “The Shining” went a little crazy after being glued to a typewriter in the same hotel for weeks? Yeah. Sometimes a change of scenery can be just what you need to refresh and reset. One of the best ways to gain a fresh perspective is by getting away from your desk and seeing your company’s product or service in action, which can often spark new ideas.

6. Put people first.

One of the most important reminders from the classic creature feature, “Jaws,” is never to put profit over people. Though the mayor knows a dangerous shark is lurking in the water amongst unknowing beachgoers, he refuses to close the popular tourist destination for fear of losing valuable patrons. The lesson to be learned is to ensure our work prioritizes the end user over the dollars and cents. Customers trust organizations that put them first.

While horror movies may give us a thrill or even a good scare, they also offer realistic survival strategies that translate well into communications. As you navigate the ever-changing landscape of PR, keep these wicked words of wisdom in mind to ensure your success. Happy Halloween!

About the author 

Kat Ricketts is a senior account executive at Slide Nine, where she has been leading and supporting accounts for the last two years using her background in technical and corporate communications. She enjoys long-form content writing and previously worked for both Cardinal Health and Honda as a communications specialist.