What The 90’s Taught Us about Public Relations

Although I was born in the 80’s, I consider myself to be a full-blown 90’s child. The TV show Wishbone was where I first developed a love of history. If someone uses the word “bop,” my mind immediately goes to my first Bop It game and I want to yell back “Twist it – Pull it – Flick it!” When parents complain about their kids having too many stuffed animals, I cringe and think about the multiple boxes of Beanie Babies living in my attic that I continue to hope will be worth something one day. But the 90’s weren’t just about all the must have toys and wonderful TV shows; they were also a time when future PR professionals like myself had the opportunity to learn a thing or two about how to bring clients success. Below are a few examples of PR tips we learned from 90’s culture and icons.

1) Giving a Face to Your Brand is Crucial – We fell in love with the Olsen twins on Full House, but in reality that was only the beginning of their success. They truly owned their brand and developed movies and products that fit their target audience. In today’s world, where most interactions take place online and not in-person, personalizing and humanizing your brand is crucial to success.

2) If you are Facing a Communications Crisis, Be Transparent – I can’t even begin to list all the wonderful children’s TV shows that aired in the 90’s, but there is one show we will never forget for the delightful scandal it brought with it. On July 26, 1991, Pee-wee’s Playhouse host Paul Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure. What did Reubens do to rebuild his reputation? Almost absolutely nothing for the next decade. Reubens’s situation was a no-brainer for the courts. He did what he did and paid a fine. What can we learn from this? If you want to save your career or company and not sit on your butt for ten years, apologize, be transparent and regain the trust of your consumers/fans. Hiding is usually never the answer.

3) Never Discredit Public Opinion – For us 90’s babies, we hear the word “OJ” and our mind does not immediately go to the juice. Instead we think about the OJ Simpson trial, which further popularized the idea that Hollywood can get away with anything. But the takeaway here for PR professionals it that your client’s public image is a huge priority, which is why getting them media coverage before a crisis occurs is important. The more friends you build in the media world, (usually) the less likely it is that they will tear you to shreds at a later date. That being said, another lesson here is that no matter what you do, have done or who you know, a great story trumps everything.

4) Digital is the Future – I’m sure many parents cringed when their children suddenly began sporting numerous Tamagotchis and appearing late to dinner because they had to check in on their hand-held pet. But the creators of these little creatures, Akihiro Yokoi of WiZ and Aki Maita of Bandai, were on to something when they made these highly addictive toys. According to survey data released by Forbes.com, “Studies show that Gen Y and Millennial generation – which will comprise more than 50% of the workforce by 2020 – would prefer to use instant messaging or other social media than stop by an office and talk with someone.” So for those of you who talked lovingly to your virtual pet, you weren’t crazy – just ahead of the curve.

So next time you are reminiscing about which Power Rangers character was your favorite, think about it in a public relations context. Who doesn’t remember all the diversity conflicts around these action fighting heroes?

Kate Connors is a Senior Account Manager & Social Media Strategist at Media & Communications Strategies.

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  • Jessica Sitton

    I think it is important to note that PR is a different beast
    than it used to be because it is in a digital world now. Children of the newer
    generations are wired and accustomed to this constant digital connection. The
    days of hand written letters is done and we are in the days of emails and text
    messages. This means this generation will look at things with a different
    perspective and will be accustomed to different styles of functioning. For
    example, one main difference is speed and efficiency. The younger generations
    are used to having almost instant access to everything. This instant access
    becomes something we are accustomed to and you better bet that carries over to
    communication and access in the workplace. The faster and more efficient way is
    often preferred to the slower and more diligent way. This is an important shift
    in thinking for PR professionals to consider.