On its surface, a show chronicling the mayhem of running a classic Chicago diner might seem like a world away from a tech PR agency. But the experiences of rush hour chaos and constant pressure to build something new may resonate with restaurateurs and PR pros alike. When you cut a little deeper, there are several key lessons for PR pros in FX’s hit TV series The Bear.
If You Don’t Like It, Make It Better
Season one covered Carmy “The Bear” Berzatto, a world renowned chef who returned to his hometown to take over the family diner, The Beef, after the passing of his brother. His goal was clear with one quote: “I’m going to fix this place.”
Carmy’s work environment had changed drastically – he’d gone from making decadent desserts at Michelin Star restaurants to cooking Italian beef sandwiches and low-grade spaghetti, not to mention dealing with the financial and organizational mess his brother had left behind.
Resolute in his goal, Carmy made the decision to tear down the diner and start fresh, a strategy PR pros should employ when old practices don’t hold up the way they used to.
It doesn’t always have to mean starting from scratch, even a small change can make a big difference: adding more personality to an executive pitch, swapping in a fresh subject line, referencing what’s hot in the news or offering a fun location for an introductory meeting.
Just like Carmy had to take a hard look at the diner’s (troubling) finances, it’s also important for PR pros to analyze their organizational processes if you’re regularly going over budget. Can you streamline administrative work? Does your client find value in that monthly recap that takes hours to compile?
Especially on a smaller team, it’s best to use your time to focus on results, rather than processes. For example, if you’re pitching an update to a product you announced last month, start with your existing media list and update it, rather than starting from scratch. That’ll give you more time for outreach and follow-up.
Constantly thinking about how to improve PR programs with big and small adjustments is how you keep clients, and keep them happy. Nobody likes stale – whether that’s in a comms strategy or at your favorite restaurant.
Take Accountability No Matter What
The diner’s financier, Carmy’s Uncle Jimmy, retold the story of the “Steve Bartman Incident” to stress the importance of accountability. A little context here – Steve Bartman was a Chicago Cubs fan who became a national pariah for “ruining” the Cubs’ 2003 playoff run by interfering with a foul ball.
In reality, the Cubs sealed their own fate. Outfield errors and surrendered runs blew their 3-0 lead. Despite that – Cubs fans blame Bartman for the playoff loss to this day. PR pros can be guilty of this too. It’s easier to blame the circumstance than the strategy.
Sometimes announcements aren’t as successful as you’d hoped, media interviews don’t go as planned or your client isn’t selected for an award you submitted – but at the end of the day the buck stops with us. Regardless of who was “at fault,” we gain trust with clients when we own the losses and use learnings to provide a better game plan for next time.
Get Fresh Perspectives
The diner’s employees were burnt out. For years, they had gone to the same kitchen, cooked the same menu and provided the same uninspired customer service. When Carmy decided to rebuild the restaurant from scratch, he did the same with his staff. He sent them out for a breath of fresh air – dessert expert Marcus went to Denmark to learn from the best and front-of-house manager Richie attended a fine dining school to learn the meaning of world class service.
Sometimes it can feel like you’re fighting an uphill PR battle and you’re completely out of new ideas. But you don’t have to go all the way to Denmark to find inspiration. Simply taking a walk, doing a 15 minute meditation or taking a well-timed vacation can also open your mind to fresh ideas. Another way to gain perspective is to hold a brainstorm with people outside of your day-to-day team – pull from departments like marketing, research or social media to get an unbiased take on the best path forward.
Although I’m happy to work from the comfort of my office, I learned valuable lessons from the adrenaline-filled kitchen of The Bear that are applicable to PR pros – like the importance of changing approaches to get better results, holding myself accountable and getting fresh perspectives.