Professional wrestling is a unique and wonderful blend of sports, theatre and storytelling. For me, an account executive spending her weekdays working on successful PR campaigns, the weekends are for hitting the road and experiencing the unfolding drama at wrestling shows. 

At first glance, the world of public relations and the spectacle of professional wrestling may seem worlds apart. One sits at the forefront of communications, the other is renowned for over-the-top characters and outlandish storylines. However, despite the differences in glitz and glamour, there are actually quite a few lessons we can take from the masters of choreographed combat on how to run a successful PR campaign.

Work the crowd

Part of what makes wrestling so electric is the roar of the crowd. The best grapplers know how to work the audience, amplifying their emotions to epic proportions. They know the difference between a family friendly show in a church hall and an arena show filled with 10,000 fans – and they know how to perform in both.

Successful PR campaigns aren’t usually performed in front of a packed stadium, but the same principle applies in energising your target audience. It’s about knowing who you’re talking to, what buttons to push, and how to ignite engagement. Get people excited and participating in the conversation – a little showmanship can go a long way.

Be prepared for anything

One of the keys to the wrestling world’s enduring popularity is that virtually anything can happen. Friends can turn on friends, shocking debuts can emerge at any point, controversial storylines are a constant – the writers and performers always lean into the unexpected.

In the PR world, the show must go on as well, even when crises hit. The best professionals and spokespeople don’t get flustered or thrown off when something unforeseen occurs. They must have a knack for pivoting and adjusting on the fly. A depth of preparation, confidence in their skills, and the ability to think quickly on their feet allows them to roll with any punches.

Tell a compelling story

At the heart of any successful PR campaign is storytelling. You need to craft a narrative that captures attention, builds interest, and leaves a lasting impression. This is something the professional wrestling industry has mastered for decades. The greatest wrestlers aren’t just talented athletes – they are heroes, villains, and everything in between woven into larger-than-life tales of good vs evil, redemption, and glory.

Just like the most memorable wrestling storylines, successful PR campaigns thrive on emotion and captivating personalities. While most PR work may not be as dramatic as Kane being revealed as The Undertaker’s long-lost brother, it’s still important to go beyond simply communicating key messages. Your target audience must be transported into a world in which they can get immersed, and invested, in.

Professional wrestling’s unique approach to engagement and storytelling offers a number of lessons for public relations professionals. There’s an art to both worlds – one just happens to involve more body slams and tombstone piledrivers. But whether you’re looking to master the perfect suplex or play a part in shaping the reputation of a tech company, the stars of the squared circle have techniques that can help any public relations executive rank as a heavyweight champ.

The recent strikes by the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry, but their impact extends far beyond Hollywood.

The strikes began on 14 July 2023 as the actors’ union and AMPTP (the representative body for film and television studios) could not settle on a new contract. This strike also coincided with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, and so Hollywood was at a standstill until a deal was finalised on 9 November. The actors were fighting for multiple changes throughout the industry, with a key issue being consent over artificial intelligence and increased residuals. AI was also a key sticking point in the WGA strike negotiations, with the eventual deal stating that it cannot be used to rewrite scripts.

But the influence of the strikes extends far beyond bigger pay checks for actors. The strikes, driven by concerns over fair compensation and working conditions, have highlighted broader issues surrounding the relationship between technology (AI in particular) and labour.

Companies across various sectors have been exploring AI applications for efficiency, cost savings, and innovation. However there’s a growing awareness of how the use of AI might be influenced by the evolving dynamics between workers and employers. Fear of job displacement and concerns over worker welfare have created a complex narrative across all industries.

The strikes, and the subsequent deal between all parties, highlight a crucial perspective: the role of AI should be collaborative, working in tandem with human capabilities rather than replacing them. Companies may find it necessary to invest in programmes that equip employees with the skills to collaborate with AI systems, ensuring that technology enhances their productivity. Different industries should use this moment to foster cross-sector collaboration. Sharing insights and best practices on AI adoption, ethical considerations, and workforce integration can lead to a more harmonious and responsible approach to technological advancement.

The ethical use of AI is a growing concern for both the public and industry leaders. These strikes further stress the importance of aligning AI adoption with social responsibility. Companies may now be more inclined to evaluate the impact of AI on their employees and society at large, taking steps to mitigate negative consequences.

The SAG-AFTRA strikes, while rooted in the entertainment industry, reverberate across sectors and countries as a reminder of the complex relationship between technology, labour, and societal values.

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