With the spooky season well and truly upon us, we thought what better way to mark the occasion than a Halloween-themed spottydog blog! However, we’re not here to expose PR horror stories — we’re going to delve into the depths of classic Halloween villains and uncover how we’d offer our PR expertise to enhance their ghoulish reputations.
Here to explore this topic is Communications Consultant and psychology graduate Zoe Barlow. She’ll be homing in on the spooky science behind how we perceive people or brands and the power of PR and reputation management in influencing those perceptions — all with a Halloween twist!
Dare to read more?
There’s more than what meets the eye…
Before we can dig into the souls of these ghouls and ghosts, let’s go back a step and decipher exactly how PR professionals enhance the reputation of their clients.
PR plays an important role in managing reputation and influencing the public’s perception through a variety of different proactive and reactive strategies. These can include generating positive news coverage, publishing carefully curated social media posts, or working with influencers to endorse your brand.
What do all of these have in common? They aim to promote and maintain a positive brand image through communication.
Using a combination of tactics, communications professionals create stories that are purposeful, engaging and impactful for the target audience. And through this, they build and maintain the reputation of clients.
This is vital, particularly in today’s digital climate, as reputation can make or break a brand.
The spooky science behind it
Understanding how reputation management works also requires a basic understanding of the science of the mind — AKA psychology. Whilst PR professionals aren’t psychologists, understanding the principles of human behaviour can help you understand the needs and motivations of your target audience, allowing you to build stronger, more meaningful connections with them.
The first step to understanding the science behind reputation is knowing how people form attitudes. In a nutshell, an attitude is made up of three basic components: emotions, thoughts and behaviours.
Now, here’s where we’re getting technical. Attitudes can be changed through a process called classical conditioning which involves learning to associate a stimulus — or a product — with a particular feeling or response. Starbucks is a great example of this: the coffee brand has successfully associated its brand with the cosy drink of choice throughout the colder season with its iconic pumpkin spice latte. Even with other coffee chains jumping on the bandwagon, October and Starbucks have practically become synonymous in the eyes of many coffee lovers!
According to the social learning theory, attitudes can also be changed through observation, imitation, and modelling. For instance, seeing your favourite TV icon shopping at a high street brand will guarantee that you’ll want to take a peek at the latest online collection. eBay is the perfect example of this, partnering up with Love Island star Tasha Ghouri just weeks after the season finale — the pre-loved collection was an instant hit!
Bearing this in mind, once you’ve determined your audience and you identify their set of thoughts, emotions and behaviours, PR strategies can be applied to enhance and influence these.
Now, let’s get spooky — how can we apply this theory to provide communications recommendations to our favourite Halloween villains?
The Wicked Witch
What’s the public opinion?
Known for her evil cackle and her wicked spells, the witch is arguably the most famous face at Halloween. History has painted the picture that witches are evil — in fact, from as early as the 1400s, women practising witchcraft for the purpose of good were thought to be doing the ‘Devil’s work’ and were often tortured, burnt or hanged. Other associations include the witch having her trusty black cat beside her or whipping up magic recipes at her cauldron.
How can we enhance their reputation?
Show the witch’s softer side — we’d advise promoting her love of animals, highlighting the bond between her and her feline sidekick. An idea would be to collaborate with a populate cat food brand, such as Whiskers, on a joint social media post.
Get the cauldron bubbling — the witch’s ability to get creative at the cauldron should not be overlooked, so we’d recommend earning her a slot on a popular cooking show, like Sunday Brunch, to showcase her best Halloween recipes.
Spells for good — it’s a myth that the witch’s spell-bounding ability is inherently evil, so why not position her magic as something that can be used to incite positive change? Partnering with a charity, like Make A Wish Foundation, could be a smart move for our Halloween favourite.
The Unlucky Black Cat
What’s the public opinion?
The black cat has long had a negative reputation, with humans associating it with ‘bad energy’ or unlucky superstitions. During the Middle Ages, some people blamed black cats for spreading the Bubonic plague, and now even in the modern day, we’re conditioned to feel a sense of dread when one crosses our path. The truth is, though, that cats are only perceived this way because of their association with witches — and we all know their reputation is based on false claims.
But their reputational issues can actually cause harm to the real-life black cats, with the RSPCA stating they’re the less likely type of cat to be adopted or rehomed.
How can we enhance their reputation?
The good news is that many cat charities are already doing their best to showcase why these midnight moggies are as equally deserving of love and attention as any other cat. That’s why Cats Protection founded National Black Cat Day in a plight to remove this negative reputation. But, what else could be done?
Remove the ‘un’ — it’s amazing what a little bit of research can uncover. Did you know that in the Midlands a black cat is believed to be the perfect wedding gift as it can bring good luck and happiness to the bride? Well, there’s your story! We would propose packaging this fact into a media relations campaign, pitching it into wedding magazines, as well as big consumer and lifestyle titles.
So, there are all the tricks and treats of PR applied to some of the most devilish characters at this time of year. Hopefully, we’ll have Dracula’s publicist calling us up sometime soon!
Are you afraid your business is being misinterpreted as a horror story when you are really a fairy-tale organisation? Get in touch with spottydog communications here to enhance your brand’s reputation.