By the time Lee and Bernays provided the first definition of public relations in the early 1900s, Dr. John Watson had been ‘PRing’ his dear Holmes for decades.
Having just finished the 8th and final Sherlock Holmes book (a journey brought on by the BBC’s brilliant ‘Sherlock’), one thing is very clear: without PR and reputation management, Sherlock Holmes would never have achieved the success he did.
Holmes repeatedly berated Watson for reporting on the ‘trivial’ detail of his cases, but there can be no denying that Watson took Holmes’s cold, clinical methods of deduction and contextualised them in a way that Sherlock never could (or ever wanted to). When we look at what Watson was doing, he was repackaging content to make it appealing to a wider audience, in the way PR agencies do to this day.
Without the work of Watson, the clients that brought the greatest problems to Sherlock’s rooms in 221B Baker Street would never have even known of his existence, let alone been able to seek his council. The police would never have given the world’s only ‘consulting detective’ so much leeway to operate in the manner of his choosing. And the criminals of London would never have feared the name ‘Holmes’.
Of course, the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never mentioned public relations (it hadn’t officially been invented yet for starters), but in the BBC’s reimagining, Watson-as-a-digital PR could not be any clearer. The good Dr. maintains a blog detailing the works of Holmes and when asked “Do people actually read your blog?” Watson answers, “Where do you think our clients come from?”
Watson’s blog builds Sherlock’s reputation to the point where the attention of the press is attracted and the print and television news outlets simply amplify his reach even further.
No matter how great someone’s work is, potential clients need to know about it through multiple channels. If ever you are in doubt of the need for PR, think of this as elementary and ask yourself “where would Holmes have been without Watson?”
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