What the Smash Hit Musical Hamilton Can Teach You About Working in Enterprise Tech PR
Who could have imagined that a hip-hop musical about one of America’s lesser-known Founding Fathers would become a national phenomenon, or for that matter, elicit anything close to excitement? Lin-Manuel Miranda, for starters.
Miranda took an 800-plus page biography on Alexander Hamilton and transformed it into a powerful, exciting and emotional story. Similarly, working in enterprise tech PR requires looking (way) beyond the surface of something — like, say, software-defined storage or cloud computing — to craft a compelling story. Miranda took all the classic elements of a musical and made them fresh again with a standout cast and a departure from traditional lyrical composition. In the same way, every day I find myself challenged to take traditional PR tools (press releases, blogs, media pitches, etc.) and use them in a new way that successfully grabs the attention of the right audience.
The similarities between Hamilton and working in PR don’t end there.
In the musical’s opener, fittingly titled “Alexander Hamilton,” the audience is given a summary of Hamilton’s life, from a young age all the way to the end with Aaron Burr’s line, “And me? I’m the damn fool that shot him.” Each word in this song has a purpose. And the same can be said for almost every song in the show. When you work in an industry like PR that depends on language and the art of communication, making your words purposeful is essential. Closely tied to this is producing quality content. At the end of the day, quality always wins out over quantity, especially when today’s reporters are challenged to sift through hundreds of story ideas every day and pick a handful that make it into print.
‘History Has Its Eyes on You’
In this heartfelt ballad from George Washington to Alexander Hamilton, Washington warns Hamilton that no man can control how he’s remembered: “You have no control; who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” Here is the truth about clients’ news: “We have no control; who responds, who writes, who tells your story.” BUT if we do our job well, we can control the messaging and which assets we provide to tell that story and make a pretty compelling case for why readers should see the story we, and our clients, want out there. More often than not, success in PR is a result of preparing for as many variables as you can but also remembering to remain flexible. There will always be unforeseen obstacles that crop up and news cycles will continue to be unpredictable — that’s what makes it so fun, right?
“Non-stop” is probably my favorite song in the show (at least this week). Aaron Burr and the ensemble repeatedly ask Hamilton, “Why do you write like it’s going out of style? Write day and night like it’s going out of style?” Writing is Hamilton’s passion, which is something I can relate to. Sometimes at a PR agency it can feel like you are writing day and night. At Bhava being a strong writer is a job requirement and it’s a skill that at every level we are constantly working to improve. There is no status quo.
Apart from significantly improving my working knowledge about the early days of America, Hamilton (and more specifically Miranda) also reminded me that a good story can come from anywhere. Finding an angle or narrative out of what might appear on the surface to be the dullest content imaginable is harder, but it’s also more meaningful. These are the roads less traveled and in my experience usually yield a greater sense of pride in what you’ve accomplished.
The takeaway: Be creative, but stay true to your art. And make sure you see Hamilton.