Dr. Randall Mindy and Kate Dibiasky have an unpopular counter-cultural opinion – that a planet-killing comet is hurtling our way. (image: Shutterstock)
How does a society function when bad news is not an easy sell? This question was the inspiration behind recent Netflix smash hit, Don’t Look Up: a film which offers some key insights for Christian communicators who want to engage with the media more effectively.
The satirical doomsday comedy depicts astronomer, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), and PHD candidate, Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) as “crazies” who have an unpopular counter-cultural opinion – that a planet-killing comet is hurtling our way.
The Christian worldview can also often be seen as counter-cultural in overwhelmingly secular societies. It can lead some Christian organisations to try and steer clear of the media for fear that they may misrepresent their words. But Don’t Look Up is a fantastic illustration of why this doesn’t need to be the case.
Here are three things Christian communicators can take away from the film:
The scientists in the film were almost completely ignored because they didn’t know who they were talking to, nor what they were doing.
The exaggerated daytime magazine programme The Daily Fix captures the fast-paced, freneticism of the media. Kate loses her cool in her interview, ends up looking muddled, and ultimately undermines her message.
How you speak in media interviews adds credibility to what you’re saying. Understanding who you’re talking to, and the context you’re speaking into is a key element in crafting your message so it is received well and taken seriously.
Many communicators are met with much the same preoccupation and apathy that the protagonists are met with in the film. So taking time to research the outlet you’re speaking to, and their audience will help you understand how to cut through the media, while sticking to your message.
As soon as Dr. Mindy asks “what’s wrong with telling people the truth?”, the PR person in the room asks him to make sure he gets some media training as he seems a bit ‘slow’.
While we can see this film as an exaggerated comment piece, the value of truth in your PR campaigns, statements and outputs cannot be understated.
In both handling potential crises and in planning and executing specific campaigns, clear messages, being as open and honest as possible is key in building trust with your stakeholders.
The film embellishes the scepticism we are seeing in our society around fake news, and through the satirical representation of Dr. Mindy asking this question, reinforces the importance of grounding any media offering in truth if it is to stand out. As a byproduct of our age of cynicism, truth has become essential in any PR offering.
*Spoiler alert* The final scene of the film has a particularly jarring moment of authenticity. Following two hours of exaggerated satire, the prayer given by Yule (Timothée Chalamet) is a moving selah in the madness of the film, and a reminder of the power and value of faith in our society.
The respect with which the film treats Yule’s faith - even though it may not be shared by the other characters - reflects our own experience as a PR agency sharing stories of faith during the real-life crisis of the Covid pandemic.
Over the past two years churches, Christian organisations and charities have stepped up to offer the story of Jesus as a hope to the world in a time of uncertainty – and have seen an enormous engagement from the media in their story.
Whether it’s delivering food parcels to the hungry and marginalised, speaking out for and bringing comfort to the vulnerable, or even being a positive voice in these difficult pandemic times, the Church is putting its words into action.
So Christian communicators can look ahead to 2022 in confidence, knowing that they have a hugely important and insightful role to play in the public conversation.
Written by Esther Jolliffe, Account Manager, Jersey Road PR.
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