3 PR lessons from ‘Inside Out’

Communicators can glean insights from the Pixar film that they can apply to their personal and professional growth. Consider these animated ideas.


“Inside Out” is about a girl and her emotions as she experiences life’s triumphs and struggles.

The 2015 Pixar release is also loaded with PR lessons.

Riley’s emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust—help her respond to various situations and guide her toward maturity via her “Islands of Personality.” When she moves away from her childhood home, all of them (particularly Joy) learn that the only way to grow is to let go of old ideals and accept change.

Let’s focus on Joy and Sadness, two of my favorite characters. Between them I noticed a few valuable lessons, for both personal and professional growth:

1. Mistakes don’t have to be your downfall. Joy is always set on making sure Riley finds a way to turn her negative experiences into good memories. No matter what happens, she’s always looking to the bright side and trying to persuade the other emotions to see it with her.

As a business owner, you’re going to make mistakes in trying to publicize your business. Though some missteps can cause a lot of damage, there are very few that will be your doom. Take a deep breath, remember that you and your team are only human, and make sure not to repeat those mistakes. They can only ruin your brand if you let them.

2. You have to go with the flow. Riley struggles to learn this when her family moves away from her childhood home and she’s forced to acclimate to a new city and school. As a pre-teen, she and her emotions understandably reject the change and want to go back to their old life.

That’s not how it works, though. Change is going to affect your business, and you need a marketing strategy that reflects that. No one likes to think that something could happen that will alter their entire company, but unfortunately that’s not within their control. Instead, tweak your marketing plan to include realistic what-if scenarios. You’ll feel better having a solid contingency plan.

3. Embrace the art of letting go. In a heartbreaking part of the movie, Riley’s Islands of Personality collapse into her forgotten memory space. It’s a poignant representation of the changes kids go through as they age.

During this part, I thought about business owners who go through this with their companies. Just like you, your business will go through infantile and puberty stages as you’re developing your brand and personality. Just as Riley (and Joy) learn, you might have to let go of what you thought your business might be in order to help it grow.

Erika Montgomery is CEO of Three Girls Media. A version of this article originally appeared on the agency’s blog.

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Topics: PR

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