I have a confession to make: I have a big thing for TV shows. In my spare time you’ll most often find me discovering new and exciting series to watch (among other things). After all, as our CEO Chris Lewis says, we all need time to do what we like to stimulate our creativity. The feeling of discovering a new series you love is amazing; it’s even better when it teaches you valuable lessons.
That was the case for me when I first found Suits, an American legal drama with an intelligent sense of humor. It tells the story of Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), a promising young lawyer with an eidetic memory instead of a law degree. He starts working for Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), one of the best closers in New York. A whirlwind of (law)suits and corporate deals ensues, as the two men overcome the challenges of the legal system and tackle their own demons along the way.
It’s an engaging watch and has become one of Netflix’s most viewed series. But it offers more than just entertainment. Here we take a look at what its fictional corporative advocacy can teach the real public relations and business worlds…
1. I win… that’s what I do
Harvey Specter likes to win law cases out of court, because taking them to trial costs money. It may sound like a cynical move, but look at it this way – Harvey knows how to pick his battles. In our line of work, success means starting with the strategies that will win the war without causing unnecessary battles along the way.
Be careful about looking for the right opportunities. Does your client want to be noticed by a C-level readership? Find the fastest route into top-tier business publications and stick to it. Are they aiming to achieve cross-channel visibility? Present a concise integrated campaign plan and demonstrate the results. Don’t work for work’s sake – work for success.
2. You want to lose small, I want to win big
What’s the difference? Risk. There’s PR wisdom in knowing when you should take one. Sometimes the client doesn’t feel comfortable and it’s up to us to show we can prepare him for that big broadcast interview. Other times we have to convince a wary comms team that its time to launch that integrated marketing and communication strategy. Aim towards winning big rather than minimising losses – more often than not, being bold wins competitive battles.
3. Don’t play the odds, play the man
Harvey sticks to this mantra on more than one occasion – when betting a whole company in a poker game, for example. He never plays the odds – instead, he seeks to take advantage of emotional intelligence, adjusting his strategies depending on his opponent’s weaknesses. We may not be trying to win poker games, but the point stands that a deep understanding of your target audience is the root of successful PR. We can all use dry logic to sell brands or to win a customer, but truly knowing people and adjusting our strategies accordingly is what makes us winners.
4. The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary
Success without work doesn’t exist. And our customers’ success is our success. As marketing & PR executives, we can never forget that the main goal isn’t to make customers happy, but to make them successful.
5. When you’re backed against the wall, break the goddamn thing down
This is one of Harvey Specter´s most iconic catchphrases. When you hit a roadblock, climb over it. Don’t waste time bemoaning your problems – spend that energy working on solving them instead.
When crises happen, it’s up to the agency to calmly study the situation and, together with the client, apply the best possible solution. Studying customers, learning everything about both them and the competition is essential if we are to remain one step ahead and present those “out of the box” ideas that customers need so badly. Time spent complaining is time wasted – we need to act quickly and advisedly to control problems, and even turn them into benefits. After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity…
6. I could be drinking a juice box and still kick your ass
In the fourth season, with pressure building as the protagonists try to hide Mike’s irregular situation in the firm, Harvey and his protégé are in conflict – even though they both knew the consequences when he joined. There are two things we can learn from this. First, we all suffer from pressure (do you want to talk about deadlines?). It’s an unavoidable part of the job, part of the fabric of a fast-paced, reactive profession.
That leads us to the second point – it’s how you handle pressure that counts. In the midst of stress, continue to propose ideas and assume responsibility for projects without fear; among a host of mediocre ideas, there will always be those with greatness in them. Keep innovating and pushing for the higher ground when you’re under pressure. In short – go for double or nothing.
7. Don’t wear a skinny tie
Please, just don’t. And more importantly, don’t forget: first impressions are key. If you present as a confident, switched-on professional and do your job well both you and the company will achieve due respect.