Harness the force of Star Wars

This week, the world will get its first glimpse of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you throw a rock, chances are you'll hit something Star Wars-related. It's everywhere, and I love it.

I was 9 years old in 1977 when I saw the first Star Wars on the big screen. Sitting there with my best friend, Chris, we were transported to that world of Wookiees, Star Destroyers and the Rebel Alliance. From the first frame, I was hooked.

Today, two sequels (and three prequels — not going there) later, I am in my 40s, but feel the same excitement about Star Wars as I did in the ’70s.


To answer that question, let's look at it through a communications lens: If the sign of a successful brand is that it creates emotional resonance, then Star Wars is the most successful brand of all time. Forget box office receipts and merchandising numbers, I'm talking about the feelings the movies evoke in millions across the globe. When the first 10 seconds of an online trailer of a movie opening nearly 32 years after its last installment gives you chills, there's no denying its impact on your life.

That's not the only communications lesson we can take away from the Star Wars franchise. From the lips of Star Wars' characters to our eyes and ears, here are four more:

"Ah. I thought they smelled bad … on the outside."
— Han Solo, The Empire Strikes Back
Han's attempt to save Luke Skywalker from freezing to death worked, but not without an unexpected turn when he created a shelter to protect him.

Insight: It's great to have an integrated communications plan, but equally important to be able to react constructively if things go sideways. We're best able to do this when we consider things from the other person's perspective. This is an invaluable approach when strategizing, writing and working with clients. It results in better collaboration, results and relationships.

"Remember that I am fluent in over 6 million forms of communication."
— C3PO, Return of the Jedi

There's no question that C3PO is the intellectual of the Star Wars universe. Even though he knows much, he's not reminding people over and over again how smart he is. Yet he always comes through in the clutch (because, hey, someone needs to keep tabs on that hyperdrive).

Insight: Verbal, written and visual concision are the keys to the communications kingdom. I've yet to meet a CEO who'd rather be educated by a 10-minute soliloquy than consider a three-minute, bullet-point argument that is based on real data and creative problem-solving.

"No. Try not. Do … or do not. There is no try."
— Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
Yoda counsels Luke as he trains to become a Jedi Knight, although Luke proves to be a most challenging student.

Insight: The communications field is constantly reinventing itself. Every day someone emerges as the next soothsayer. Sometimes simply getting out of the gate with a first draft or creative concept can be intimidating. But we must, because that kind of intellectual stimulation is why we got into this business in the first place. And it's what our clients need us to do. So go for that run, crank those tunes or do whatever it is you do to fire up, and get it done. Don't worry about perfection, there's only one Yoda.

"The Force will be with you, always."
— Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars
Obi-Wan reminds Luke that his strength comes from the Force — from within. The beauty of the Force is both its power and ambiguity. Yet, what is it?

Insight: The Force is the nucleus of the Star Wars universe, and gives the good guys (and gals) their power. So it is with communications pros — once we learn to center ourselves and block out distractions, we free ourselves from the often self-imposed demands of work and life. It's an emotional place that's at times difficult to get to, but once we're there we do our best work.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn't just a movie — it's the rebirth of a beloved film franchise. It's also the backdrop against which we communications professionals can assess our work, refocus our efforts and prepare for the future.

May the Force be with you.

– Tom Branigan, President and CEO