The Game Of Thrones Cast Entered The Front Lines Amid Public Backlash. Here’s How To Train Your Staff To Do The Same
After eight years, seven seasons and almost a year and eight months of anticipation, the final season of Game of Thrones began on April 14. To claim that fans were disappointed is a large understatement, as a petition to redo the entire season with “competent writers” has been signed by 1.6 million people as of early June.
Between the petition, social media and multiple op-eds disapproving the season, the Game of Thrones writers are facing major backlash. Luckily, the actors stepped out of their roles and addressed the fans, supporting their leaders and the Game of Thrones brand.
When a public relations crisis hits, it is easy to watch the chaos or do nothing. It is just as easy to do or say something to fan the flames. The Game of Thrones cast successfully avoided these issues, and you can too. Here’s how to train and motivate your staff to defend your brand during a public relations crisis.
Strong, Transparent Relationships
Transparency in an organization cultivates trust between its members and its publics. When employees understand the reasoning behind management decisions, they’re ready to face any issues that arise. When publics feel they know the employees and brand they interact with, they are more likely to accept their explanations during a conflict.
Game of Thrones successfully created strong relationships between its cast and the writers over the eight years they spent shooting the film. When fans blew up over the final season, the cast was quick to come to the writers’ rescue in an authentic manner.
Most notably was Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) who explained her reaction to the Game of Thrones final season in an article on Entertainment Weekly. She admitted that her heart broke and she questioned everything about herself. Though she was initially heartbroken, she came around to the ending.
The transparency she showed in the article helped fans cope with her character’s tragic fate. Fans empathized with Clarke and, since she could accept the ending, they accepted it as well.
Encouragement To Be Brand Ambassadors
Encouraging employees to be brand ambassadors is crucial when a crisis occurs. No one understands or is involved with the company more than the internal publics. When action needs to be taken, employees need to know that management has faith in them to respond appropriately.
The Game of Thrones writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss stepped back from the situation and let the cast take the wheel. They anticipated the backlash and knew fans would not listen to them, and instead encouraged their cast to speak their minds freely.
Fans do, however, have an overwhelming amount of emotional investment in the cast and their characters. The Game of Thrones fans are so devoted to Clarke that they raised $76,000 for her charity this past week. The writers understood the difference between how fans felt towards them in comparison to the actors, so they willingly stepped back from the situation.
This level of trust in the cast encouraged them to represent and defend the brand. Every main character can be found in various articles defending the writers and the series’ ending. Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) and Kit Harrington (John Snow) were the most outspoken among the cast, particularly annoyed by the petition to redo the season.
Even George R.R. Martin, the writer of the books that the Game of Thrones series is based on, validated the writers and their ending. In his blog that followed the final episode, he mentions how he and the writers formed a relationship of mutual respect and trust. Martin trusted the writers with his vision and the writers knew he would trust theirs.
Caution On Social Media
Claiming that social media is “huge” is an understatement. Social media platforms influence all aspects of life, including politics, entertainment and business. The immediacy of communication allows conversations to happen in the blink of an eye. When approaching social media in a crisis, every step management and employees take must be careful.
With over 250 million users, Twitter is a notoriously dangerous platform to voice opinions on. That’s why, when the Game of Thrones cast hit Twitter, they avoided voicing their opinions on the series completely.
However, the actors did not ignore the fact that the finale was occurring. Actress Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) sent out the following tweet:
just here for the memes— Maisie Williams (@Maisie_Williams) May 20, 2019
Fans responded with almost nine thousand photos that poked fun at the series. She knew that fans would angrily tweet their reactions and wanted her opinion. Instead of flaming the fire, she playfully asked to be amused, acknowledging that fans love to make fun of the show.
The entire cast avoided getting actively involved on social media that night. Most of them tweeted “thank you” to their fans and coworkers. They managed to acknowledge the ending of the show without being involved in the negativity surrounding it. This tactic is important in the face of a crisis because ignoring it suggests ignorance to the brand’s situation. Management should tell staff it is okay to engage but remind them of the dangers of social media.
The Importance Of Relationships
The theme of how important it was that the cast headed this crisis is centered around how they managed their relationships. The writers made sure the cast was informed and understood the trust the writers had in them. The cast approached their moves with caution and were not afraid to tell the public how they felt.
The execution was not perfect. Fans are still upset with the ending, and the cast is going through their own turmoil. However, all issues considered, Game of Thrones successfully defended their brand.
Kyra Beckish is a marketing intern at Flackable, a national, full-service public relations and digital marketing agency headquartered in Philadelphia.