5 PR Strategies To Steal From “Once Upon A Time”

Season 6 of the ABC fantasy-drama “Once Upon a Time” debuted on Sept. 25, bringing new stories, characters and themes into the mix. As I watched the premiere episode, I started thinking back on the show’s recurring themes and how they proved eerily similar to public relations.

And thus I present: 5 PR Strategies to Steal from “Once Upon a Time.”



1. Know your audience.

A common way to find success in the “Once Upon a Time” world is to know your audience. The character that best exemplifies this is Rumpelstiltskin¬†(Rumple), a man who has a hand in almost every story in the show throughout all time. Rumple knows how to get what he wants by knowing what the other characters desire. Making deals with them, Rumple is able to get his way by offering the other characters something they want or need.

Similarly, if you know what college students need, you can use this knowledge to help promote your products and services to them. Knowing your audience is key to branding, marketing and overall success.

2. Be the hero.

You have to believe in what you are selling and advertising. If you don’t, you will likely be unsuccessful in your endeavors.

Take Emma Swan’s character in “Once Upon a Time.” Emma struggles to believe in magic and her own powers at first, feeling she is not worthy enough to be the so-called “Savior.” This character is the main hero in “Once,” and Emma cannot believe that she is the person to fit this role. However, only when she starts believing in herself is she successful — a strong strategy to take way when it comes to PR.

So, be the hero and have faith that what you are offering is the best out there.

3. Research, research, research.

“Once Upon a Time” throws its characters into missions of all sorts, as the heroes battle villains to save the day in almost every episode. When the heroes need to learn how to defeat their enemy, they do research on the villain to learn their weaknesses and strengths. The show often finds the heroes in the town library doing this research, with the character Belle typically leading the charge.

Research will help you understand your audience, and to assess what they are looking for. Millennials have different needs from older or younger groups of people, and researching what these needs are will help you offer products and services they will go crazy for.

4. Recover quickly from mistakes. 

Almost all of the heroes and villains from “Once Upon a Time” have made a few mistakes — some worse than others. However, the key is to learn from the mistake and move on without dwelling on the past. The past five seasons of “Once” have shown characters getting involved in sticky situations and growing from these to develop into stronger people and to win the day.

The key to making mistakes is moving forward. So your social media post didn’t receive too much attention this go around; learn from what you did and move forward for next time, making different decisions in an effort to improve your audience engagement. If there is anything that we can pull from “Once Upon a Time” in terms of PR it is that you cannot grow into something greater without a few bumps along the way.

5. Meet students where they are. 

“Once Upon a Time” transports characters into foreign lands nearly every episode. From Oz to the Land of Untold Stories (and even to Hell), the characters meet new faces and encounter new customs constantly. The key to forming strong relationships with these other characters and to survive in these lands is to meet the foreign characters on their level.

This lesson proves true for PR as well. Meeting college students where they are is a great way to make yourself more relatable to this audience. Use language they will understand and appreciate, and create a brand they can relate to. Meeting students on their level is a great way to show you care about their needs and want to develop a relationship with them.