PR Insider: Success and the Wizard of Oz

Spong_DouglasAs a kid, I would mark the days until Christmas with the TV Guide excitedly awaiting the broadcast of The Wizard of Oz, the most viewed motion picture in the history of TV syndication. Little did I realize as a buck-toothed, red-haired kid that I learned everything I need to know today about being a successful PR practitioner from the lessons in the 1939 film adaptation of L. Frank Baum and W.W. Denslow’s children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

“We’re off to see Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

All young Dorothy Gale wants to do is return to the farm and be with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. She meets three true friends who accompany her to the Emerald City in search of her goal: a Scarecrow seeking a brain, a Tin Man in need of a heart, and a Cowardly Lion in search of courage. It takes all those things to overcome the obstacles and rather wicked folks the group encounters along the way. It also takes brains, heart and courage to overcome the obstacles that beset PR professionals.

“If I only had a brain.”

Despite the whirlwind of change in technology, there is no app for what we do in PR.  As the Scarecrow proves, it takes brains to achieve your lofty goals. Success requires intimate understanding of your organization’s (or your clients’) vision, mission, values, positioning and business strategies. It takes keen insight into the rational motivations of your target. It requires some appreciation for the mounds of big data lurking in the woods with eyes peering out at you. It takes plucking core strategies that are distinct from competitors’ strategies, proprietary to your (client) organization and relevant while still having trees throw apples at you.

“If I only had a heart.”

The rational side of strategy development represented by Scarecrow is only one of three parts of success. The second is the emotional side of your work. Discovering the Tin Man rusted up alongside the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy and Scarecrow oil every moving joint, which releases every creative expression from talking and walking to singing and dancing. Release your creative inhibitions and present ideas with a little song and dance that stimulate an emotional connection.

“If I only had the nerve.”

There’s a lot of bluster and idle threats in the world, as Dorothy, Scarecrow and Tin Man discover. In his attempt to display courage, the Cowardly Lion chases poor Toto around the tree, only to be abruptly slapped on the nose by a fearless and driven Dorothy. What appears to be an initial foe turns out to be a friend – after a good cry, of course. Together, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion muster the nerve to continue on their path and eventually triumph. PR professionals are often called upon to be courageous in sharing and implementing bold ideas, working with new clients and facing unknown obstacles.

“There’s no place like home.”

In the end, as we all know, Dorothy wakes up realizing she achieved her goal. She learns the valuable lesson that she had the power to return home all along with the help of others. All you do is close your eyes, imagine what success looks like and grab arms with friends who will help you along your career path—Scarecrow (brains), Tin Man (heart) and Cowardly Lion (courage).

Douglas K. Spong, APR, Fellow PRSA is the founder and president of Carmichael Lynch Spong. Contact Doug: