PRSA Boston Blog

This is a blog written by the PRSA Boston president (Tom Nutile for 2008) about events and activities involving PRSA Boston

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What Dora the Explorer can Teach us about PR

I realize the blog hasn't contained as much though-provoking content as some would like, so I decided to rectify that...

When people think of fonts of PR Wisdom, they often think of senior practitioners, educators, authors, APRs and Edward Bernays. If you casually suggested that Dora the Explorer is a font of PR Wisdom—at best people would conclude that you spend too much time watching television with your children.

While that may be correct, the architecture of the show really does live the essential values of a great PR campaign and provides guidance on what PR professionals can do to motivate their teams to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Now I don’t really believe the creators of the show set out to create a roadmap for PR success. But they have. (Either that, or I really have been watching too much TV).

Following are 10 fundamental PR lessons Dora not only expounds, but lives. If we incorporate them into our daily practice, we will be better practitioners.

Planning is essential—Before Dora sets out, she establishes a clear plan with a concrete final objective. There are measurable steps along the way. Sound familiar? Having a quantifiable and concrete goal and determining the best way to get there is the essential element for conducting a strategic, results-oriented PR campaign.

Ask questions—Anyone who has watched one episode of Dora can tell you the most common question on the show is “Where are we going?” Well, PR pros need to ask the same question before developing or implementing any campaign. If we don’t have a clear understanding of the desired end result, the odds are we won’t accomplish what we want.

Make a Map—Just because you know your plan doesn’t mean everyone else does. Create a clear “map” that everyone can follow so all constituencies understand the plan, the direction, potential obstacles and the final objective.

Reiterate objectives so you don’t lose sight of your goal—Dora doesn’t just set a goal and hopes she achieves it. She reiterates the key steps along the way and solicits input from her key publics (friends and you). By regularly reminding our teams, agencies and company management where we are going, you can be sure the PR campaign does not become distracted by “nice to haves.”

Never start a campaign without your backpack—PR professionals need the right tools to do the job. While the specific tools may vary – focus groups, releases, events, thought leadership campaigns, etc.,—as PR pros we have a number of tools in our backpack – and it is essential to pick the right tool for the task. By being prepared and knowing what we have, we can overcome obstacles we are likely to face and advance the campaign towards our end objective. Dora has different tools in her backpack each episode. This shows that one size does not fit all. We need to look at each situation and bring the right tools to the table.

The power of friends—A company won’t realize its PR goals or objectives without help. Enlist friends to spot distractions and help you reach your end goal. The big mountain may be too big for Dora to climb, but Tiko in his car can zip right up over it. The same goes for reaching skeptical consumers. The CEO or VP of Marketing may not be the right person, but an author or analyst may just be the friend you need.

Fighting Communications Noise—You don’t always want to say “Watch Out!” sometimes you need to say “Cuidado” (to save Tiko the squirrel). Just because you think your messaging is clear, doesn’t mean that it is. You need to understand how your target audience communicates and adapt your communications and message to meet their needs and interests.

Beware of Swiper—With any good PR program, there are always competitors or new situations that will try to sidetrack you into reacting to them. Don’t be distracted. Focus on your goal! If you suffer a setback, quickly figure out how to fix it and get back on track.

Praise is an Essential Motivator—At every milestone you need to reinforce that success. Dora does it in two distinct ways—with the Fiesta Trio after each challenge is overcome and with a great, loud “We did it” when the overall objective is reached.

We can apply the same methodology to campaign execution. Publicly praise people when small, but important tasks are done. This gives them a feeling of accomplishment and keeps them motivated to reach the final goal. The little things matter.

When the goal is reached – don’t just note it and move on – celebrate the work the team has done. If you do this, people will be willing to go the extra mile for you in the future.

Always Review—At the end of each episode Dora always asks people to share their favorite part of the story. As PR pros we need to review each campaign to find out what worked, what didn’t and what resonated the most. We can then improve our execution for the next campaign.

What do you think? Are there other lessons we can learn from Dora? What else do you see as PR inspiration?

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  • At 10:22 AM, Blogger Chip Griffin said…

    Great post. My kids watch Dora so I can actually relate quite well to this!

  • At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Don Bates said…

    This blog shows what you can do to enliven a tired subject with a fresh perspective and a clever one at that. More important, the logic makes sense, making the topic fun and creating an image of PR competency that is hard to forget. But there's a downside. You've now forced me to find PR meaning in Club Penquin, which has suddenly become my 7-year-old's drug of choice on the Internet. When I complained about how much time he was spending with the game, he said "You're always on the computer, right, so what's the difference?" Ba da boom.

  • At 2:34 PM, Blogger Mark W. McClennan, APR said…

    Wow, Don, your comments just made my day and were completely unexpected. (You wouldn't happen to be the Don Bates who is IforPR, PRSA Fellow, would you?).

    I am glad you like the post. This is squarely an organizational blog, so I try to keep some of my personal opinions and observations out of it, for it does speak for PRSA Boston. (I am saving those observations up for when my term as PRSA President is done).

    But based on your feedback, and others I have already received about this post, I will try to more along these lines. (But I promise, although I have already analyzed Diego, Thomas & Friends, The Wiggles and Blues Clues...I will hold off on them for a while).

    Keep the comments coming.

  • At 9:53 AM, Anonymous 5Tacos said…

    Dora's resume must be incredible. She speaks two languages, she travels extensively, she has a network, she recognizes pitfalls with her senses (that's a Swiper reference), she doesn't rely on just one tool, she openly accepts ideas from her co-workers, and of course no office is complete without a singer...

    Mark I think you just penned Dora 2.0!

    Great Post

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