Thursday, November 7, 2013

PR Lessons From Telenovelas

As a public relations major, the huge success of telenovelas is particularly interesting to me. Through the class lectures and consumption presentations, we have become familiar with the intense obsession that exists for these nightly, dramatic episodes. I did some research to try to find out who are the PR wizards behind telenovelas … but to no avail. (When you Google “public relations and telenovelas,” most of the search returns are about Dr. A.) I did find an interesting article by a brand strategist discussing her brief encounter with telenovelas. She is American and speaks no Spanish, but when flipping through the channels one night, she ended up stopping on a telenovela — for a full hour. It was not the content that drew her into the show (she could not understand the dialogue). It was the way in which the content was presented: the music, the gestures, the facial expressions, the tone of the actors’ voices.  From this experience, she drew three content marketing lessons: use emotion, use your hands and volume works wonders.  I thought the article was pretty good, and I decided to think about my own PR lessons that I’ve learned while watching and studying telenovelas:
  1.  Create an escape.
    • This is something Chascas mentioned when he spoke with our class. He said that telenovelas use aesthetically pleasing scenery and avoid visual detractors like graffiti because viewers are looking for a break from the unpleasant aspects of their everyday lives. Often, telenovelas are even shot in beautiful, exotic locations. And of course the (almost always) guaranteed happy endings of telenovelas provide an emotional escape to fans. In the same way, PR professionals can present their clients as providing an escape to their publics. You can give consumers hope (and garner positive sentiment) by offering them a more beautiful reality.
  2. Maintain a strong presence.
    • Obviously, telenovelas maintain a very strong (aka daily) presence in the lives of their viewers. Fans plan to be in the same place at the same time every night to watch their favorite novelas — it’s a powerful relationship. PR professionals can do the same thing for their clients: make the brand a part of people’s daily lives and position the client as a dependable friend. In one of my PR internships, a boss told me, “There’s no such thing as too much branding.” So make your brand present. If people see your brand every day, they’ll expect to see your brand every day. They will associate it with comfort, routine and reliability. They will trust it.
  3. Be bold.
    • Telenovelas are big, bold and dramatic. They are not afraid of being over-the-top. Exaggeration works. I think awareness of one’s audience is crucial, however, to the success of this boldness. Overstatement might not be the appropriate approach for every demographic, but telenovelas are just striking enough for their particular audience. There are a lot of brands in the world and a lot of competition for consumers’ attention. If you don’t stand out, you’ll get lost in the clutter. PR pros need to know their audiences, create appropriate strategies and be bold in the implementation. Make an impression, and be memorable. 

Any other PR peeps out there? What best practices have struck you?


  1. I agree; PR can take some tips from telenovelas. As an advertising major, one can definitely capture how telenovelas intertwine with fundamental communication strategies. It's shocking to see the implications of moments in which a novela becomes reality. Within crisis communication, how do pr departments control something like the Brazilian telenovela "De Corpo e Alma" assasination? Is it a good idea to simply disappear a character and ignore the problem within the novela?

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  3. First of all, you're a huge nerd. Just kidding ;) I have totally been thinking about PR lessons in this class, too. Perhaps this is a symptom of our PR campaigns class constantly occupying the back of our minds (almost done! hooray!).

    Consider the lecture we had about reoccurring themes and plots in telenovelas. We learned that telenovelas will constantly recycle trite story lines in out-of-the-box ways. Similarly, a PR practitioner must constantly connect her client and their audience using new and exciting techniques. In PR, the goal is to reinforce your message, and making the same message seem fresh and exciting is a good way to do this.

    Also, I learned that timing is everything. Telenovela networks know that they should not air a novela with racy content and graphic images at the 8 p.m. time slot. They know that this type of telenovela should be aired at 10. p.m. instead. The network knows which audience will tune in for what content and the time that works best for that audience. Similarly, in PR, a good practitioner knows when her audience will be most accessible. She will not air an ad or a PSA until she knows that it will reach her target audience.

  4. Like Joy and Alicia, I am a PR major too. During this class I have also noticed many interesting connections between PR practices and the production and consumption of telenovelas. I did not expect to learn PR lessons from a class about telenovelas and Latin American culture!

    I think an important part of PR is to help a brand establish a strong relationship with key publics. Establishing this relationship is the first step, and then PR practitioners must continue to foster and maintain this relationship over time. A brand needs to stay fresh, current, and relatable with its publics while remaining true to its key messages.

    Telenovelas act in the same way. Every new telenovela needs a great first episode to establish an initial relationship with its audience and to let the audience know what this telenovela is going to be about. Then, the telenovela must continue to build this relationship over time with interesting plots and relatable characters. Often protagonists have "the smile" that immediately captures the attention of the audience. The challenge for writers and producers of telenovelas is to find new ways to tell an old, recycled story. And like Alicia said, in PR, the goal is to make the same message appear new, fresh, and exciting.

    Also, I loved the article you found Joy! I love that she was drawn to the telenovela even though she did not even understand the dialogue. And, I think it was very interesting how she used this experience to reflect on different marketing principles.

  5. I have thought a lot about PR throughout this class too! I did not realize how powerful this sort of medium could be. The main goal of a PR practitioner is to make a person or a group take a certain action. After learning about how telenovelas have made people get breast examination or partake in a census, I saw the power it has to not only get a message out there, but also trigger real action.

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  7. Coming from someone who is not a PR major, this was a very interesting post to read! I never really thought about branding one specific telenovela or the telenovela industry as a whole. You drew some interesting points from El Chascas, especially the part about not being afraid to overdramatize. I completely agree -- there is no reason why telenovelas should be modest. They are an escape and should always have a redeeming quality even in the worst of situations. Telenovelas as a whole have the potential to influence people as not many forms of media can. Therefore, connecting with the viewer is ESSENTIAL. Catch them with the exotic. Keep them by pulling at their heart.