The “tale as old as time” is getting a fresh take.
Disney is rebooting “Beauty and the Beast” with a live-action film that’s hitting theaters this week. The excitement is palpable: The first trailer earned 127 million views in the first 24 hours of being posted, Attitude reported.
Here are a few takeaways PR pros can learn from the film’s PR campaign:
1. Play to people’s emotions.
For PR pros, the content marketing tips from Disney’s latest live action film campaign are plentiful: Use captivating visuals, get your “employees” (in this case, the cast) to tell your brand’s stories and encourage fan interaction with questions and contests.
The underlying theme in all of the content that Disney has produced for this film, however, is simple: Play to people’s emotions. Decent stories may be interesting, but excellent stories evoke emotions. Tug at heartstrings or make people laugh (even by surprise, as in the BBC’s “dadinterview”), and you’re golden.
PR pros can also keep the momentum going without exhausting their own resources by boosting outside content.
Though the move might seem contradictory to a strong content marketing strategy, encouraging others to share content can increase brand awareness, along with buzz surrounding your launch.
Take, for example, James Corden’s recent spoof on the musical:
Each additional piece of content created by fans, entertainment hosts or reporters serves to play to your audience’s emotions as well—especially if the tale you’re offering (one as old as time) is enticing.
2. Anticipate issues, but know that you can’t make everyone happy.
Though the project is a remake of a classic Disney film, there’s a big difference in the live-action version: LeFou is portrayed as homosexual.
Played by US actor Josh Gad, the character of LeFou serves as the sidekick to the film’s primary antagonist Gaston (Luke Evans), and is set to feature in a small but significant subplot of his own when it comes to his sexuality.
“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston,” reveals Condon.
“He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realising that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”
Though many fans have reacted positively to this change, several others have lashed out against the film and its makers over it—with at least one theater boycotting the film. Disney has also received criticism in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Russia and Singapore, where leaders have spoken out against the representation.
The backlash has even led to Disney pulling the film from Malaysia. Fortune reported:
Contradicting earlier reports that the musical, starring Emma Watson, had already been censored, Disney told Bloomberg via email that “the film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia.”
The Southeast Asian country’s Film Censorship Board had deemed over four minutes of the flick unsuitable, and had asked for those scenes to be cut, reports Bloomberg. The footage in question involves a subplot with a “gay moment,” the board’s chairman Abdul Halm Abdul Hamid told Reuters via text message.
More organizations—including Coke, Cheerios, Twitter, Honey Maid and Target—are facing diversity issues, whether because of same-sex (or interracial) couples depicted in marketing campaigns or a growing PR problem over the lack of diversity in hiring employees and executives. Even if you’re never faced a specific diversity issue, brand managers are having to prepare for increased contention and the possibility of a crisis as consumers and organizations take a stand on political and societal issues.
Disney remains firm on its decision to add themes of diversity to its film, though the organization’s officials are letting the film’s director, Bill Condon, do the talking.
Condon also added that “Beauty and the Beast” features much more diversity than just the highly-talked about LeFou.
“That was so important,” said Condon on going for a level of diversity. “We have interracial couples—this is a celebration of everybody’s individuality, and that’s what’s exciting about it.”
Anticipate crises before you launch your PR or marketing campaign—especially if it contains a risqué or controversial element—but also realize that you can’t make everyone happy. Stick to your beliefs and your supporters will come to your organization’s defense.
3. Invite audiences to an experience.
Though the excitement for “Beauty and the Beast” is huge—Disney is projected to earn more than $100 million on opening weekend—the early reviews on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes contain quite a few critics, with some saying that the live-action film is a disappointment.
Whether viewers will say the project was a success or a bust, they’ll be coming to theaters to experience the characters’ revivals.
It’s also not the only way fans can put themselves in Belle’s (or Gaston’s) shoes. Reservations for Walt Disney World’s Be Our Guest restaurant are notoriously hard to get—so much that many travel sites have created guides for how to secure a spot.
Contests—such as Gameloft’s Beauty and the Beast Sweepstakes—also offered consumers money or a stay in the Beast’s castle, which increased engagement and offered winners the chance to experience a bit of magic.
PR pros don’t have to go all out with sweepstakes and prizes to invite consumers to experience their brand, either. In October, PSFK reported that Disney and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art teamed up to retell “Beauty and the Beast” on Snapchat, for its 25th anniversary on Nov. 22, 2016.
As visuals and mobile-friendly content becomes crucial for PR pros looking to be heard above the noise online, you can jump on the opportunities available to brand managers.
Invite Snapchat and Instagram followers to go behind the scenes with exclusive videos or stream interviews and take questions from fans via Facebook Live. Help your audience feel like they’re part of the action and they’ll more willingly advocate for you.