15 Quotes from Shakespeare for Public Relations Pros

March 15th, 2013 | Shonali Burke | 77 Comments

a Shakespeare board gameWhen you realized today’s date, did you think of “the Ides of March” and secretly decide to watch your back?

If you did, then like me, you’re a fan of Bill the Bard. Except you probably know him by another name: William Shakespeare. Because it’s thanks to Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” that that phrase – and its most popular historical reference – live on well after the actual Caesar was assassinated back in 44 B.C.E.

And for what it’s worth, I’m not watching my back today. Not any more than usual. Because I know you have my back… right?

I don’t know if we ever stop to think about just how much of our language, sayings and references we owe to Shakespeare. And if you look at quotes from his plays, some are particularly relevant for public relations professionals… even today.

1. “This above all; to thine own self be true.” ~ Hamlet, Act III, Scene I.

In PR: This is one of the most important things we need to remember, as practitioners and advisers to our clients. What is important about what we do, and why should anyone care?

Accurately translating the “truth” of who we, or our organizations, are at our core, is critical to good story-telling, which is what we do.

2. “Can one desire too much of a good thing?” ~ As You Like It, Act IV, Scene I.

In PR: Yes. Like focusing on getting “millions of impressions” for our campaigns, initiatives, or clients. Hello, measurable objectives, where did you go?

3. “An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told.” ~ King Richard III, Act IV, Scene IV.

In PR: It’s one thing to craft elegant messages, it’s quite another to create “facts” where none exist.

The best PR doesn’t make sh*t up.

4. “I cannot tell what the dickens his name is.” ~ The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act III, Scene II.

In PR: Branding crisis, anyone? What could be worse than being so generic in your messaging that people don’t even remember who you are?

5. “Out, damned spot! out, I say!” ~ Macbeth, Act V, Scene I.

In PR: What all measurement geeks want to do to A(d) V(alue) E(quivalency).

6. “Nothing will come of nothing.” ~ King Lear, Act I, Scene I.

In PR: You can’t build a solid program until you’ve done your research, and know what measurable objectives you’re trying to reach. Otherwise, you might as well say:

7. “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” ~ Macbeth, Act V, Scene V.

In PR: Could anything be worse than your program, or organization, be perceived as “signifying nothing”? Egads!

8. “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” ~ King Henry the Sixth, Part II, Act IV, Scene II.

In PR: Yes, this is something we might, or might not, secretly dream of. But when working on your social media policy, or crisis communications plan, getting buy-in from the legal department at the start is a much smarter way to go.

9. “Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.” ~ Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene III.

In PR: Work as a community manager, or have a component of community management as part of your responsibilities? Build it slowly; that’s much more likely to scale well.

10. “Brevity is the soul of wit.” ~ Hamlet, Act II, Scene II.

In PR: Don’t “take the opportunity to say” or do something. Just say or do it.

11. “I like not fair terms and a villain’s mind.” ~ The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene III.

In PR: Ethics is the one thing we can never, ever be without.

12. “Of all base passions, fear is the most accursed.” ~ King Henry the Sixth, Part I, Act V, Scene II.

In PR: Measurement is frightening. But it’s critical to do right – or start, if you’re not as yet – if you are to learn and work successfully.

13. “I’ll not budge an inch.” ~ The Taming of the Shrew, Induction, Scene I.

In PR: A recipe for disaster, since you must know how to adapt your messages for different audiences and platforms. Also a really bad attitude to have in general.

14. “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” ~ Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene V.

In PR: There’s nothing wrong with starting your PR program modestly. Some of the best campaigns started out small. The main thing is to keep going.

15. “Why, then the world ‘s mine oyster.” ~ The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act II, Scene II.

In PR: We don’t always make a ton of money working in public relations. But we do sometimes get the opportunity to help effect real change. The world is our oyster… if we choose to make it so.

And there you have it. Fifteen quotes from Shakespeare for PR pros (and I trust you know why I chose to share 15, as opposed to 7, or 23, or another arbitrary number, of quotes). If you enjoy them, keep them handy to pull out at your next client or team meeting… or maybe even when you just need a laugh!

What about you? Do you have a favorite quote, whether from Shakespeare or another writer, you like to apply to our crazy business? I’d love to know if so, do leave a note in the comments below.

Image: MoeplesMagazine via Flickr, CC 2.0

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Shonali Burke
Head honcho of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke is President & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, she loves helping for- and non-profit clients, both small and large, turn corporate codswallop into community cool™. She also loves ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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75 comments
jmerge11
jmerge11

If only Shakespeare wrote a PR code of ethics!

shonali
shonali

@khirek What a sweet thing to say. Thank you! How are you?

KirkHazlett
KirkHazlett

Awesome, @shonali! Mr. Bill and I never really got along too well...I was more focused on roughly 300 years after him. But you have absolutely and totally captured the essence of the messages that can be found in his writings. I also can still hear my Shakespeare prof at UGA saying, and I quote, "Shakespeare is lying in his grave laughing his a** off at the 'interpretations' we do of his writing." She was right, of course, but you have piqued my interest once again in the Bard's work and I'll probably...with an emphasis on "probably"...revisit his works. Thanks for making my day!!

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

Oh man this is good. Gonna have to think of some good lines.. okay, Google them since I can't remember everything exactly right. 

The whole 'friends, romans, countrymen' speech from Julius Caesar. That's PR 101 for how to work a crowd. Think the set-up for Romeo and Juliet - the prologue tells you they die, yet it still has impact at the end - can be both about managing expectations and building momentum, tipping things off to keep the audience engaged until the end. 

Had to look up which play.. from Merchant of Venice "All that glisters is not gold." PR Lessons aplenty there. Don't fall for shiny object. Don't get blinded by pretty, huge empty metrics. The difference in being good vs. just looking good; ye olde perception and when does it matter more? Good stuff. FWIW.

Nagleblend
Nagleblend

Great post - love numbers 1 (good life lesson too) and 10 (keeping it simple)!

StevenStrategic
StevenStrategic

%s All to make sure people can find your information easier on %s & %s! %s

tkabbour
tkabbour

@dasaples In bed, reading\/tweeting about PR at 2:45 am when I have to be up at 6 am! Insane!!

khirek
khirek

%s I'm well - ready for less snow and more spring! hoping to join you for the next %s

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@KirkHazlett "Mr Bill and I never really got along too well"... you had me laughing at that one! I'm glad you enjoyed this, my friend!

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@3HatsComm Love these, Davina! Esp re: Romeo & Juliet - you're absolutely right. You know what's going to happen right from the start, yet you stay with it. That's amazing, isn't it?

Did I ever tell you I played Portia in "The Merchant of Venice"? I still remember a lot of the script, and that particular bit especially. It's such beautiful poetry.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@Nagleblend True! There are quite a few quotes on stupidity and foolishness as well that I didn't include... I feel like with Shakespeare - and perhaps all great writers - one can find different contexts and lessons for much of their work.

Thank you for stopping by today, I appreciate it!

nittyGriddyBlog
nittyGriddyBlog

@shonali Hey Shonali - thanks so much for ur reply - for some reason I wasn't able to reply to u over there. How are u feeling?

shonali
shonali

@cmtrapolino :) Hey - I have a favor to ask, IF it's possible & not too much trouble. OK to DM you?

dasaples
dasaples

@tkabbour I am also in bed, tweeting to JG but without any luck. Have to be up at 6... so we're both a bit crazy. LOL

shonali
shonali

@nittyGriddyBlog That's so weird! But I'm better, thank you. I have to wear a headband (to keep bandage in place) for another week.

cmtrapolino
cmtrapolino

@shonali Go for it - and thanks for asking to DM. I love a lady with manners!

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