by Wendy J. Roundtree
As if jumping off a cliff attached to a large elastic rope wasn’t risky enough, Will Smith decided to celebrate his 50th birthday by bungee jumping out of a helicopter. Yes, you read that right.
His jump was an answer to a challenge made by founders of the YouTube channel Yes Theory, who believe life can be authentic and fulfilling if you seek discomfort. Let me be the first to say that even though I was nowhere near the Grand Canyon when Smith jumped, I was 100 percent uncomfortable.
By now, you’ve probably guessed that the title of this blog is clearly a hyperbole. I will not, nor do I recommend that you heli-bungee jump (unless your heart desires). But in all seriousness, I do believe there’s something that public relations professionals can learn from Smith’s daring birthday celebration.
First: step outside of your comfort zone.
As PR practitioners, while we maintain many principles that serve as the foundation for our industry (i.e., advocacy, honesty, ethics, etc.), we can’t deny the role technology plays in how our audiences disseminate and receive information.
Take for instance, Will Smith and his jump. He not only accepted the challenge of YouTubers, he chose the non-traditional route, which racked up more than 16 millions views by streaming it live on said platform.
What does this have to do with PR?
Many of us are comfortable with traditional media. We may have even mastered the art of working with bloggers and influencers. But with Will Smith bringing vlogging to Hollywood, we continue to see more people taking hold of their content and sharing it on their own terms. It’s not always easy to adapt to changes in technology, particularly for larger organizations, but since when has innovation been related to the status quo?
The next lesson I believe we can all learn is to lead with authenticity.
Yes Theory’s mission and Will Smith’s recent entry into the vlogging sphere was a match made in heaven. And the eventual hour or so long production of “Will Smith: The Jump” was produced like any other of Smith’s video … with higher stakes involved, of course. We watched his excitement, his fear and finally his elation. In his own words, the experience was like going “from pure terror to absolute bliss.”
Our audiences can tell when we’re trying to do something that doesn’t fit our organization’s personality. Everyone can’t be as straightforward as Gary Vee, or as socially conscious as Google, or as witty as Wendy’s (the restaurant, not me).
At the end of the day, it’s up to us as communicators to help our organizations/clients navigate the ever-changing technological landscape ― while also helping them maintain a true representation of their corporate identity.
Does that mean you need to bungee jump out of a helicopter and stream it live? No.
But it is worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet.