PR Training

Get Your Audience to Turn Their Chairs: Treating Content Like an Audition on ‘The Voice’

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One of TV’s biggest hits returned this week as “The Voice” began its 18th season.

The show follows a tried-and-true method: each year, competitors from around the country vie for stardom by trying to become the next great singing star.

But “The Voice”’s biggest draw comes in its early rounds when contestants take on the “blind auditions.” Judges Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, John Legend and Blake Shelton sit with their chairs turned away from the singers, swiveling only if the judge is interested in selecting them for their team.

During this period, contestants are desperate to grab the judges’ attention, and will ultimately have to do the same for wider audiences when their fates are decided by online voting.

Does this process sound like a microcosm of public relations to you? You’re not the only one.

You might be marketing a product, organization or service rather than your beautiful singing voice, but you can still take inspiration from these singers when approaching your PR strategy.

Here’s how your team can benefit from thinking like The Voice’s next stars:

Strategize for your audience

For contestants on “The Voice,” it’s critical to begin the competition with goals and to have a plan for which chairs you’re hoping to make swivel.

Each of the judges come from different backgrounds, have different styles and have succeeded with different performers in the past. While singing your heart out to your favorite song can be an OK strategy for some, most will benefit from doing their research and having a goal for who they’d like to be their mentor.

In public relations, it’s key to approach your efforts with the same type of research and strategy.

A strategic plan of attack is critical to your success, and before you try to earn exposure for any project, you should have a detailed and specific idea of what audiences you’re targeting and how you’ll try to reach each of them.

And just like “The Voice” contestants need to be able to market to a wider audience when viewers vote in the later rounds, your team needs to ensure that your content is ready for big exposure if it starts to gain traction.

Showcase your creativity

For years, singers trying to win reality TV competitions have been falling into the trap of singing songs that are too commonly performed. Instead of going for the clichéd or safe ideas, taking risks and pushing creativity is often rewarded.

Just like these contestants, your PR team needs to be creative in order to achieve great results.

Think of the typical boilerplate press release and media outreach as one of these overused songs — sure, it might be adequate every now and then, but it likely limits the ceiling of your success and means your content will look very similar to others.

Just like a unique performance or a reinterpretation of an interesting song can set a contestant apart, a creative approach to your content can be the difference between middling coverage and a major win.

Understand your brand

Every good singing show contestant knows the importance of playing up their personal brand. Are you the wholesome young star? The twangy country heartthrob? The bad-boy rocker?

These archetypes aren’t just about playing into stereotypes or lacking imagination — it’s about knowing how to brand yourself.

This principle should be obvious to PR pros, but planning and embracing a brand — for an organization or an individual — is key to success. If your target audience doesn’t know exactly what you are, it’s difficult to make a lasting impact.

Share a great story

Even with a fantastic debut and four judges fighting over your talent, the initial impression on “The Voice” can only get you so far.

Many of the most memorable and successful performers have another trick up their sleeves: a great backstory. TV networks love a good comeback or triumph over adversity, and contestants are smart to play to their strengths and lean into telling their story.

Smart PR pros should consider the similar strengths and weaknesses of what they’re trying to promote. Does your content have a great first impression but lack depth? Perhaps it’s time to do more work to round out your story.

To get the best out of your public relations, be sure to make storytelling a central part of your approach.

Lisa Arledge Powell is president of MediaSource, an award-winning communications agency that specializes in video production, public relations, social media and strategic insights, constantly securing national exposure for major brands. Connect with Lisa on Twitter: @LisaArledge

Image via NBC/Facebook

About the author

Lisa Arledge Powell


  • To me, Lisa makes easy-to-follow points, suggests a workable plan for developing a PR project and the link with The Voice helps convey her message.

    Good thought-provoking content to read on a Friday, and think through over the weekend.

  • Lisa, I love how you related a popular show to powerful PR strategies. I really liked how you tied in understanding your brand to contestants on “The Voice.” It’s true — if you don’t know exactly who you are, your target audience won’t either!

    — Emily Greco writer/editor for Platform Magazine

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