Brilliance of Game of Thrones and its lessons in PR!

11 July 2016

Ever since I was introduced to ‘The Game of Thrones’ saga by my good friends, I have been swiftly yet smoothly drawn into this global entertainment phenomenon. I use the word phenomenon since it has taken the world by storm in the last 5 years, resulting in never ending debates and discussion around it.

When GoT first hit the screens as a little known HBO book to TV series featuring kings and dragons, the fact was that no one paid it much attention. Back then there was little or no scrutiny over matters such as the premiere screening or repeat telecasts thereafter. Fast forward by 6 years and over 26 Emmy awards later, the situation has turned into a sensation with tsunamic proportions. Today matters such as the timing of the premiere are debated as topical issues.

To quote some fun facts, in the current season (6th) the average gross viewing per season has grown to over 23 million. Overall GoT has secured 193 industry awards and has been nominated for over 515 awards over the years. Another fun fact is that the The Game Thrones is the most pirated series in the history of television since 2012. So much so that the Guiness Book of World Records have officially announced GoT as the more pirated in 2015.

I must admit that it has me ensnared hook line and sinker in its swirling currents, drawing me each time to the edge but stopping abruptly at the end of each season in anticipation for the next year. Now clearly there are several reasons for the success of this entertainment blockbuster. The most basal of credits must go to Clever Scripting, Superlative Direction, Grand Presentation, Healthy budgets, etc. While these remain the recipe for success in most potboilers, there must be distinctive reasons as to what sets GoT apart from the herd. Before we review them, I wish to touch upon the PR industry that has been growing steadily as a must have communication platform in recent years.

The Public Relations industry has a lot to learn from this absorbing series that is notching up TRP’s among global audiences. As you all know, PR is a fine art which combines various skills that need to work in tandem for success.

Requisite qualities in PR:

  • Quality Writing
  • Effective Communication
  • Access to Knowledge Resources
  • Research Capability
  • Creativity
  • Presence of Mind
  • Networking Skills

Hence the writing on the wall is clear, there is no magic formula to attain skills in PR. It is the successful blend of various soft skills and subject mastery that will contribute to its success. Therefore PR like GoT must bank on more enduring factors to succeed against the odds.

6 Success factors of Game of Thrones and its learnings in PR:

While there may be several reasons for the roaring success of this series, I have tried to analyze what stands out the most. And not surprisingly all of them hold true to the PR profession too since we are also in the business of storytelling and communication therein. The only difference being that while GoT is an entertainment medium with set variables, the PR professional on the other hand has many more variables and subjective factors. However the recipe for success interestingly remains the same.

Story Telling – Masterful storytelling is at the heart of GoT’s success. The script writer has carefully broken down the plot to keep you riveted to your seats. One example is of the character Hodor who is seen through the 6 seasons but says nothing but the term Hodor when spoken. It is ultimately revealed in season 6 that it was all part of a mysterious and magical onslaught where he is actually saying ‘hold the door’. There are several other instances such as this where meticulous scripting keeps you engaged season after season.

Shock and Awe – The biggest raison d’etre in my view is the shock and awe the series delivers. The ruthless and gory killings leave you distraught at times. I have still not gotten over the killing of Eddard Stark and his wife Tully Stark in separate episodes and in different turns of the plot. I assumed these characters were for the long haul considering they held pivotal roles. However the finesse in killing these characters while successfully answering all your questions on the reasons for it is a masterful stroke of this creation.

Consistency – The makers have ensured there is no break in the consistency of the plot over the years. They have ensured that the various characters sit in perfectly to complement the plot. More importantly the characters are seen aging gracefully in line with the story. Maintaining a universal theme over a plethora of sub plots all woven in carefully has been another crucial factor.

Powerful characters – Casting in my opinion has also contributed in a big way to this series. There are several characters who grow on you over time for varying reasons ranging from liking them to disgust to anger. To give you an idea one can relate to the pleasant Eddard Stark, the sinister Joffrey, or the cruel Ramsay Boloton, powerful Drogo husband to Khaleeesi, Khaleesi the mother of dragons, the charming Jon Snow, to the vindictive High Sparrow and many more.  The plot unveils beautifully over the seasons to help you relate to each of these and to empathize with them in different ways.

Imagery – The various flash points in the story are presented well, complemented by grand imagery that is provided with the aid of CGI. Some episodes leave you with distinct images that last many days on end at times. Many GoT enthusiasts also fervently speak about how many of these scenes keep coming to them repeatedly in their dreams. Who can forget scenes such as Khaleesi emerging from the fire reborn with dragons, or the killing of Tully Stark and her men at a wedding, Joffrey getting poisoned in a public event, beheading of Eddard Stark and putting his head on a pike and many many more.

Multiple Plots – It is said that the original book has 8 different characters narrating the story parrallely. This is easily another factor that contributes to its success. The multiple plots all running hand in hand, while successfully merging at key junctures to contribute to the central theme and story is a clincher. This makes the mind of the audience work overtime and never lets your attention dip even for a minute. The parallel plots also keeps you yearning for more, as it provides room for the producers to introduce new characters, new twists while giving you sufficient room to toggle mentally back and forth between episodes and seasons with newer twists that are unveiled over time.

Afterthought

Game of Thrones is a master stroke in Television Entertainment. I am sure like me many writers tend to run out of adjectives to describe this phenomenon. However what intrigued me about its scintillating success was the learnings that various industries can imbibe off it. Appealing to worldwide audiences, cutting across time zones and cultures and dialects and religions with a theme that relates to one and all is no mean feat. The learnings for PR from this drama is immense. While many of the underlying qualities may be applicable to several industries and professions, I for one found the Story telling and hence Communication aspect a perfect learning and collaborative fit for PR professionals.

About the author:

Priyan DC is the CEO of Star Squared PR, a new age Public Relations and Communications consultancy. He is an avid blogger and writes regularly on any topic that catches his fancy. His primary areas of interest include PR, Social Media, Influencer Relations, Crisis Management in PR, Content Development, Startups and Marketing, etc.

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