The Interview: PR Breakdown

By: Kaitlyn Landram, Strategic Planning Committee Member

What do you get when you combine an American comedy, a North Korean Dictator and a nationwide controversy?

‘The Interview’, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as journalists instructed by the government to assassinate Dave Skylark’s (Franco) biggest fan and leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, sparked about as much controversy as a film centered around killing a national leader may be expected to. The storm around the film’s release can serve as a lesson to PR professionals worldwide on how to attract and maintain the right kind of attention.

Be Proactive
Sony’s computers were hacked on December 16th, 2014, and a threat was made upon the release of the film. Movies were leaked, and employee’s personal memos and e-mails were made public alongside their salaries and social security numbers. Although the hack may not have been prevented, it should have been predicted, especially in an industry where pirating movies is an undeniable occurrence. For example, in the 2011 hack of Sony’s PlayStation Network that lost the company 170 million dollars, extra security measures should have been taken.

Be Confident
After the threat was made and a few days before the film was to be released, Seth Rogan and James Franco cancelled their interviews to avoid the media. Sony soon after pushed back its release date and caught the attention of President Obama, who disagreed with the company’s actions in deregardment of the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech. Sony could have stood confidently behind their initial production and release decisions to dodge undesirable attention.

Be Resourceful
The day before the movie was to be released in theaters, Sony did something that had never been done before. In order to substitute for major movie theatres who pulled the release after the threats, Sony made the highly anticipated movie available to viewers via a digital platform. It has since made more than $40 million.

Be Controversial
“Any publicity is good publicity” does not hold true in most cases. However, after a hack, canceled release dates, and the disapproval from the nation’s president, who wouldn’t be enthralled as to what the upheaval is all about? The controversy surrounding the film’s release caught the attention of the public, even those who wouldn’t typically be interested in a slapstick comedy.

Be Anticipatory
The buzz about The Interview’s release drew the attention of a larger audience than it would have had if it simply hit theaters as planned. The growing spotlight on Sony also caused a lot of harm due to the release of personal information that quickly made international news. The co-chairman of Sony who made inappropriate remarks in e-mails to her coworkers lost her job, and Sony has since had to pick itself up and get back to business.

PR professionals must keep informed of happenings within their organization as some may lead to public relations need and support. So what do you get when you combine an American comedy, a North Korean Dictator and a nationwide controversy? Notable public relations opportunities.

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