“Survivor” recently announced the cast for its upcoming 33rd season, which premieres September 21. Before I go any further, I’ll answer your question. Yes, “Survivor” is still on the air.
Any time I tell people I’m a die-hard “Survivor” fan (I’ve tried out for the show multiple times and may use this blog post to try out again), I almost always get a response along the lines of, “Oh, that show is still on?” “Survivor” began as a social experiment, having strangers coexist and survive on their own in the wild, and it has since grown into one of CBS Network’s most successful TV series. As I’ve binge-watched old seasons in anticipation of the season premiere – along with my daily dreams of winning the title of “Soul Survivor” – I’ve started to notice some parallels between being successful on Survivor and in public relations. Here are some of the key characteristics shared by successful “Survivor” players and PR professionals.
First Impressions – On “Survivor,” you’re placed in a tribe with a group of strangers. First impressions are crucial here, because in a game where those strangers decide your fate, you want everyone to see your value. You can’t come off as too aggressive or bossy, but you also don’t want to be too quiet or distant. In PR, whether you’re meeting a client for the first time, pitching a potential new client, or reaching out to a reporter, that first impression can make or break the relationship. You need to show that you are knowledgeable, approachable and trustworthy, so a reporter will be open to working with you in the future, and clients – new and old – can trust you to handle their business.
Strategy – Being strategic is a focal point of “Survivor” and public relations. The worst thing to do on the show is to run around like a chicken with its head chopped off – and that’s not because the starving contestants will want to eat you. To advance far in the game, you need to develop a proper strategy with respect to whom you’re going to target, when to look for a hidden immunity idol, or even who will go on a reward with you. Each decision you make ultimately decides your fate in the game. PR professionals are similar in that a proper strategy is needed for a successful campaign. We don’t go around sending unsolicited pitches to every reporter with an available email. We take the time to research and develop in-depth media lists to target the proper reporters for each particular pitch.
Timing – Building off strategy, timing is a crucial part of public relations and “Survivor” that will greatly impact a plan, no matter how much strategy is put into it. Survivor is all about making a big move, but timing that move correctly is pivotal to its success. Do you take out a big player too early, leaving yourself as the biggest threat? Do you tell people who you’re voting for too early, giving that person time to flip the vote? Likewise, in PR, timing a pitch could be the deciding factor between success or failure. PR pros need to stay up-to-date on the latest headlines and news stories, as well as what reporters are covering, so that a pitch is relevant but will also not be overshadowed by a more prominent event. Additionally, we need to consider the time when we’re sending a pitch. Is it a Friday afternoon in August? The Monday after a holiday weekend? Proper timing, in both “Survivor” or public relations, is key.
Alliances – In “Survivor,” it’s called an alliance. In PR, we might refer to it as a relationship. Either way, the end goal is the same. Alliances have become one of the show’s trademarks. To be successful, you need a solid alliance built on trust. Wavering between groups will constantly leave you on the bottom of the totem pole, and most likely, the first one they’ll vote out when it comes time is you. While you’re not necessarily forming an alliance, PR pros need to build successful relationships with reporters. Similar to “Survivor” alliances, these are built on trust. Giving the reporter quality information and quick access to knowledgeable sources will build this trust, and opens the doors for future work. If you’re constantly slow in answering emails, offering sources who are unavailable or providing lackluster information, the reporter will vote you off his or her Rolodex.
Perseverance – There might not be a quality more visible in a “Survivor” winner and PR professional. Survivors must battle Mother Nature, who might reveal herself in the form of extreme heat, torrential downpours or vicious wildlife, as well as compete in challenges testing their physical and mental abilities, all while living on minimal food and water. They must do all this while attempting to maintain alliances and not ruffle any feathers. In PR, you can spend all day working on a pitch and building the perfect media list, only to get zero replies. Or better yet, you get a snarky response from a reporter questioning you on your pitch. Good PR professionals will not let this discourage them, though. They will rework the pitch, make a new list and continue looking for a successful connection.
Are you a die-hard “Survivor” fan too? Or do you see parallels between your favorite TV series and your work? Let us know in the comments. And before I finish, I think there’s only one line that can truly close a “Survivor” themed blog post: The blog post has spoken.