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4 Things You Can Learn About Media Relations from “Gangnam Style”

Heather Farr

Remove the sunglasses, peel back the over-the-top suit and disregard the fact that half of the world has seen him in his underwear on a toilet: PSY, the mastermind behind the painfully catching “Gangnam Style” and that crazy horse dance, is a media-grabbing genius.

His music video has been mirrored by everyone from college marching bands to Mitt Romney impersonators. He’s spawned a whole new era of “Gagnam Style” GIFS. He’s galloped (literally) with Ellen DeGeneres and Britney Spears, and even managed to score a slot at the MTV Video Music Awards.

The guy is an influencer. And whether he meant to or not, his music video – which managed to surpass even “Call Me Maybe” in YouTube popularity – can teach PR pros a thing or two about communicating with the media.

1. Stay relevant. Beneath the surface of the seemingly mindless song is actually a smart social commentary about an affluent Seoul neighborhood with which many locals have a love-hate relationship. When reaching out to a reporter with an idea, being aware of current events – particularly as they relate to your client and the reporter’s beat – is a must, no matter what topic you’re pitching. If you understand how your client’s or company’s news is relevant to current world happenings or a trend in your industry, you might even be helping the reporter finish or start a story on which he or she was already working.

2. Keep it simple. PSY didn’t influence dozens of parodies and get every college kid this side of Chicago to pretend like they were roping in farm animals by writing a 10-step instruction guide. He made it easy to understand and, therefore, easy to replicate. It’s easy for communication professionals to unknowingly get caught up in PR jargon or to produce client materials packed with industry phrases. If a reporter has to read through your email or press release more than once to understand it, chances are, it will find its way into the trash.

3. Know your audience. PSY likely didn’t plan to become an overnight phenomenon in the United States, but the baby-faced Korean rapper isn’t stupid. Infectious dance beat, easily-replicated dance, weird music video – it’s what the people want. For media relations professionals, this idea is two-fold. First, do some research on the reporter – read their articles, note their writing style and figure out how they prefer to be contacted. Second, know the reporter’s audience. How does your information affect them? Why should they care?

4. Get to the point. “Hey, sexy ladies” – it doesn’t get more direct than that. A journalist gets hundreds of emails a day, and if he or she can’t understand what information you’re trying to provide within the first few lines of your email or the first ten seconds of your call, he or she will likely move on to the next one. The days of long sentences and conjunctions are over. What information do you have and why should the journalist care? End of story.

And just like the dance, you might not be a media relations pro the first time around, but you'll get the hang of it.