So, I’ve been binge-watching the hit television show Man vs. Wild featuring the charismatic survival expert, Bear Grylls.
Grylls shows us what it takes to eat insects, go underwater spear hunting, scale down mountains, and explore vast glacier crevasses. He can make fire by rubbing sticks against each other, quickly build shelters, and tie all sorts of crazy knots. These are all great skills to have when our civilisation goes under, no doubt. But, it also makes me ponder this simple question:
When civilisation falls and the zombie apocalypse comes upon us, will anyone be needing any spin doctors?
The challenge: When the “shit hits the fan” and the zombies are attacking, you’ll need to stick together in tight teams to survive. As a public relations professional, you’re used to working in small teams consisting of oddball specialists — while simultaneously pushing them to get the results you need.
Survival PR skill: Leadership
Excellent communication skills are the trademark of all great leaders, so maybe you can opt for a leadership role? When the advertisers of the group are done shooting at everyone and everything, maybe you can take action to secure the group’s approval using psychology — without a single shot fired? It’s always better if the group appoints you to be their leader, rather than relying on self-promotion or force.
Survival PR skill: Motivation
People rarely know what’s best for them — and a pandemic virus outbreak will probably not make anyone behave more rationally. You’ll have to find innovative ways persuade the group not to give up, day in and day out. But as a public relations professional, you know how to create incentives and win-wins — out of thin air, if need be. A workshop on mission-vision-values around the campfire should do the trick.
Survival PR skill: Listening
So, lots of people are going to perish. Lots of people are going to be scared. An existential crisis on a global scale. “How could this happen to me? Why did it happen to me? What do I do now?” In a world where everyone wants to be heard, a PR professional understands the inherent power of active listening. If people desperately are looking for answers, then let them come. Sort of like inbound marketing, right?
The challenge: As the dust settles, there has to be some sort of division of labor. And as a student of human behaviour, the public relations professional can help people understand their roles in this brave new and disrupted the world. As we all know — there’s always a bigger picture.
Survival PR skill: Recognisance
Monitoring and analytics are in your blood. The more information you have, the more information you’ll be able to exchange for sharing the things that you know. You could take charge of collecting data and gathering intelligence to make sure that you control the knowledge on which decisions are being made. After all, information is power.
Survival PR skill: Strategy
Whether it’s about surviving a nuclear holocaust, or launching a b2b app startup in Europe, it’s all about strategy. With many different fractions of survivors fighting each other and competing for limited resources, it’s not personal — it’s business as usual. And if you can get journalists excited about an app with no users and no revenue, then you can figure out the best way to raid that pharmacy store.
Survival PR skill: Organisation
In a post-apocalyptic world, what would be better than having the survival skills of Bear Grylls? Well, that would be if you had several Bear Grylls working for you. As with employer branding, you must not only attract the best of the best to your band of survivors, you must also provide them with something meaningful to do. Your agency experience will surely come in handy here.
The challenge: Conflict gets everyone’s attention, and you know this. As a public relations professional, you’ll likely seek nonviolent solutions to most problems, but you can still play the aggressive game if needed. You know from your business experience that it’s either ‘eat’ or ‘be eaten.’
Survival PR skill: Propaganda
As your groups grow larger and more powerful, other competing looters will try to take you down. It might not come naturally for a dentist or a pre-school teacher to gear up — and go to war on fellow human beings. They might not be able to resort to violence to save their own lives. Therefore, they’ll need to hear that they’re good and that the others are bad. A few talking points to your general should suffice.
Survival PR skill: Disinformation
Survival might require some measure of moral flexibility. Having more information than your enemies is good, but having them relying on false information, well, that would be even better. Fact-checking and double confirmations are probably not high on anyone’s to-do list when there’s not enough drinking water to go around. Maybe you slip your enemies some alternative facts?
Survival PR skill: Negotiation
Even if the financial system has collapsed, you can rest assured that there will be some sort of currency. A deep understanding of what people need besides governmental controlled currencies will make you an asset to the group. Trade for water? Release the hostages? Open the door, please? As a public relations professional, you’re able to negotiate a retainer budget in your sleep. Cease-fire agreement? Let’s talk.