FOUR PUBLICITY LESSONS FROM BILLIONS
I may or may not have seen every episode of the Showtime series Billions at least two times.
If I’m being honest, the only group text I’ve ever enjoyed being a part of was a Billions-related conversation where, for once in my life, I didn’t mind if the number of people piling on and replying multiplied and took up a good chunk of my day.
And, I may or may not have spent the better part of a lovely evening a few weeks back in a heated debate with an actual billionaire arguing about which one-liner from the show’s character Wags is the funniest.
We eventually agreed it was a draw.
Billions is one of the best shows on TV.
It's wildly entertaining.
The cast is amazing.
And the fact that it’s a drama centered around financials finally helped me understand what it exactly is my husband does for a living.
More than that, however, Billions is a show filled with amazing quotes on business, leadership, interpersonal dynamics, and most importantly, publicity.
Ahead of the show‘s Season 4 finale and on the heels of the news Showtime has ordered a fifth season of the hit drama series, here are four quotes from Billions that can teach you a lot about publicity.
You weren't ready
While I originally hated the scene this first quote appeared in the first time I saw it, mainly because it hit way too close to home to conversations had in my own home, I’ve grown to love it.
After trying to start a healthcare business and take it to the next level by raising capital that isn’t her wealthy husband’s, Lara, the main character’s wife, is met with defeat.
And by defeat, I mean her venture capital meetings are a disaster.
Returning home with her ego bruised, Lara is hoping to find a sympathetic ear.
What she receives is a valuable PR lesson: You weren't ready, but you wouldn't hear it from me. What is it you do that you're the best in the world at? You offer a service you didn't invent, a formula you didn't invent, a delivery method you didn't invent. Nothing about what you do is patentable or a unique user experience. You haven't identified an isolated market segment, haven't truly branded your concept. You need me to go on?
The same thing happens all the time with brands and PR.
Too often, brands are pitching media or on social platforms touting how they’re the greatest things to ever disrupt whatever industry they fall in that day.
But they haven’t taken any time to identify their unique selling points.
Or who their target audience is.
They don’t have a plan in place for reaching that audience.
And more times than not, they haven’t taken any time at all to properly position their offering in a way that speaks to their target audience.
The next time you get ready to advertise, pitch, or promote your brand, ask yourself: Am I ready?
I don't lie to myself, and I don't hold on to a loser
It’s inevitable at some point in business, you will find yourself surrounded by the wrong types of people—annoying people, slackers, moochers, or for lack of a better word, “losers.”
They may be employees.
They may even be on your advisory board.
When this happens, you have no one to blame but you.
You chose to have them around you.
Maybe you didn’t consciously choose them, but your actions, positioning, messages, and behavior did.
So, to have the right people around you—or in this Billions quote instance, the “winners” who make you happy and can make your business a success—you need to change what you do, what you say, and how you behave to attract the right people.
Think about the types of customers you would love to serve.
Think about the type of people you want to work with.
Think about the business partners you want to have.
Hard workers like to be with hard workers and kind people like to be around other kind people.
Likewise, successful people are drawn to successful people.
And remember to cut yourself loose from the people holding you, and your brand, back.
If you don't, you're the one who loses.
Fear, the mind killer
Early in Season 4, Billion’s main character, Axe, says that fear is “the mind killer.”
Originally authored by Frank Herbert in The Dune Chronicles, the original phrasing of this exact quote is: I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
What “fear is the mind-killer” simply means is that the more afraid you become, the less you are employing rationality in getting out of a situation; that your fear is overpowering your capacity to think.
Which happens to the best of us when we are encountered with pitching or promoting our own brands or businesses.
We get nervous. Overthink what we’re planning on saying. Go down a rabbit hole of comparison on social media. Waste a bunch of time.
And where does it lead us? To analysis paralysis.
All out of fear.
Don’t let it happen to you.
The next time you’re facing down the fear of promoting your offering to the public, asking for a sale, or pitching your brand to the media, remember that you’re being given the chance to share your passion with the world.
Shout it from the rooftops!
But don’t give in to fear.
The worst thing anyone can say to you after you present your offerings to them is no. And all no means is not today or not in the fashion in which you are presenting this information to me, please try again.
Don’t let fear be your mind-killer.
Allegations versus rebuttals
People remember the allegations.
They very rarely remember the rebuttals that come after the allegations.
In fact, by the time a rebuttal is usually issued, your reputation—or that of your brand’s—is usually already toast.
This truth is summed up eloquently in one my husband’s favorite Billions quotes of all times, known lovingly at our house as the “goat f**ker.”
Due to what some may perceive as vulgar profanity, you can see why I saved this one for last. However, overlooking its boldness, you can learn a lot from this Billions quote: If you get called a goat f**ker, even if the goat denies it, you're still a goat f**ker.
People will only remember what others say about you.
They won’t remember how you responded or if your name was ever cleared.
Think of all the allegations and rumors (some eventually found true) that have followed Michael Jackson, OJ Simpson, Richard Jewell, anyone impacted by the #MeToo Movement, Sammy Sosa, the Varsity Blues cheating parents, and other notorious figures around for years.
Do you think of them first for what their talents or contributions to society were?
Or do you initially think of what society has accused them of?
Your reputation is your most important asset.
Let this be a lesson to always make sure you keep your reputation free of allegations.
What lessons from Billions can you apply to your publicity practices?