…and what it takes to do what I love
Sadly, I just found the joys of weekday cinema about a year ago. The demands of my life (*coughs job) don’t afford me the luxury of as much spare time as I would want. So, I decided that I must force some time out for my sanity and my wellbeing. Unfortunately, my epiphany hit smack dab in the midst of a pandemic and I think I have lost too much time, but who cares!
I love the thrill of the action movie genre, especially when it’s a great story with a good heart, and good-looking people. I make no apologies for wanting to take a 120-minute break to watch gorgeous humans test the limits and my imagination.
Some weeks ago I went ahead to watch the Jurassic World Dominion movie, because I wasn’t feeling too well and I needed a great pick-me-up. I had watched every movie in the franchise since its 1993 debut. I come from a family that truly enjoys the beauty of television and cinema so it comes with the terrain. I may not be the biggest fan of humans being chomped on by sky-scraper-sized dinosaurs but I wanted in on the latest film. I thought the adrenaline would fuel me and throw me out of my funk and I’m glad I was right, to an extent.
Minimal Jurassic spoilers, I promise
Oooooh, it was thrilling! Just when I thought ‘party A’ was off the hook with the ‘something-something-loptos’ dinosaur, another group of characters was being chased down by a horde of prehistoric carnivores. Then relief set in for three seconds, and I was back on the joy ride again. It was like a sensual yo-yo delight! Did I contort my body into a pretzel to get away from those blood-seeking dinosaurs? Yes, with all shame in my shrieking voice, I did. My mouth fell open when I found out there was another set of dinosaurs that would inevitably hunt their target once a laser beam had been pointed at them. They would not stop, pause or be deterred in any way. I put my hand on my head and nearly shouted at the screen!
Damn, I enjoyed it! Did it throw me out of my funk? Nope, I still fell ill right after watching the movie. But you see, I smiled as malaria approached. Do your worst, M!
Top Gun, the return…
A week after, I got better, or so I thought. And decided to watch the second installment of TopGun – a movie that took over 35 years since the first! I loved the 1986 edition; I watched it with my father and siblings.
See, we had this video club on Adeniyi Jones, Ikeja; and every Friday we would head out and cart away 8-10 videos for the weekend. Other kids went out to parties and danced or had lessons, we stayed home and watched ourselves into a stupor. I missed those times! Friday evening till Sunday night was move times for us. I would spend an hour with the rewinder machine, rewinding all the tapes and getting ready for the movie galore. And every morning at 1 or 3 am, my mother would wake up to see her family huddled at the foot of the bed watching movies. Sigh, good times!
Anyways, it was during one of those binge sessions that I watched TopGun and I was hooked. Maverick’s intensity, Ice Man’s coolness, I wanted to fly! I’m not shocked that the requests to join the Navy jumped when the movie was released.
Oh there will be major spoilers
So, I was ready for whatever Top Gun: Maverick was going to bring my way. However, a lot can happen in 36 years, and I was prepared to be disappointed.
But, the newer and older generation of stars came through and blew us to smithereens. That moment Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (played by the unbelievable Tom Cruise) blazes through Mach 10 at the beginning of the movie, I could feel the force of gravity against my face. Damn! (you need to watch it to feel that euphoria). Fast forward to all the training sessions and when he flew that course in two minutes 15 seconds, I was almost on my feet – the snag of watching in cinemas. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw and Jake “Hangman” Seresin (played by Miles Teller and Glen Powell respectively) brought that fresh tinge to the Top Gun challenge. Plus they had a woman in the class this time around. Thank heavens for Monica Barbaro who played Natasha “Phoenix” Trace. PS: I would love to see more women in that adrenaline-pumped space as well.
Oh, I loved how much dedication went into making the movie – recreating the beach scene just to get the sunset right, the intense training the cast had to go through to get into shape, the search for the right ‘Rooster’. When I like a movie, my research mode goes on turbo-charge.
Coming from that high, I quickly realised that the movie had particular principles my family and I lived by, that PR has reiterated in the past four years. I could spend 72 hours sharing those principles with my team of consultants or they could experience the movie and come to some of those conclusions by themselves. And that is exactly what I did – got my team to sit down with the first movie (it’s a disservice to yourself to watch Top Gun: Maverick first) and devour it, then I listened to their takes from the film.
I smiled as I listened to their reaction, but when they were done I could see that about two had hit the nail on the head. And I thought I could share with you too….
Here are four things that hit me as I watch the movie:
- Talent is amazing but it can only take you so far. Focus and grit are what make you formidable:
In the past year, I have realised that many young people are bothered by their seeming lack of writing skills and don’t think they can cut it in the public relations industry. Sorry to break it to you, but writing is about 1% of public relations.
If you can write, that is all sweet and good. If you don’t you can learn and go toe-to-toe with the best of them if you are willing to devote your time and all to it.
Do you see how freaking amazing Maverick is at flying the shit out of planes? He would not be able to do diddly squat if he did not practice and was willing to push himself to hell and back. Both movies are testament to how much hard work is required to succeed at anything in life, and PR is no exception.
Whether it is strategy, writing, or stakeholder management, once you are determined to do it, that is all you need. This is why I visibly cringe when someone tells me “I can’t do it.” Oh, why would you limit yourself? Try it out, fail and stumble. Try it out again, then ask for help! Just don’t belittle yourself by saying you can’t do it. This profession has shown me that anything is truly possible if you want it badly enough.
- Trust is EVERYTHING: I spent nearly five months writing an essay on trust and truth, why it is the currency of the future and how important it is for PR and communications professionals to hold ourselves to higher standards. And every word in that 20-page essay is important to every professional – whether newbies or the icons.
We are social creatures by nature, which means we thrive when we have a sense of community, and we are compelled by every fabric in our being to share information, albeit to varying degrees. Yet this hunger for community and to release information is fostered by trust in a system or process.
Trust is the reason that Maverick was notorious in his class in the first movie. He was very talented, he could do the crazy moves, yet Iceman and some classmates believed his very stunts would land them in trouble. He was too volatile to be trusted. Trust is the same reason why Hangman (played by Glen Powell) seemed to be the least liked in the 2022 class. He was talented, and could very well get the top spot in his class, but others did not want him to even make the final team because he would leave them out to hang and dry! You do not want someone you do not trust when the chips are down – whether in life, work or business.
In a world that is constantly bombarded with information from all ends, and the general mistrust of the government, companies and business, it is understandable that the world values truth and transparency now more than ever right – they are currencies that money can’t buy.
And as reputation experts, it is important to hold these tenets dear. Here is an excerpt from my essay:
“Beyond corporate trust, this is a concept that the world – communicators, media, businesses, CEOs, governments and officials – needs to understand and relate on that basis. Trust is the foundation on which every boulder or platform on reputation building or management is laid. The same way you trust a child not to slap their siblings, or your company to be fair in remuneration and policy-making, or your country to uphold rights, is a direct correlation to who they are, what they stand for, who they have exhibited themselves to be to their stakeholders. Ipsos Thinks: Trust The Truth, a survey on trust, confidence and truth across the world, states that perceived level of integrity is tied to past actions, the frequency of people vouching for you, and whether actions match words – all of which are a measurement of reputation. It’s why the world won’t trust vaccines or a corrupt government even on the threat of death.”
- You are only as strong as the people around you:
Teamwork cannot be overrated in any way. Centuries-old idioms and adages across the world speak to the importance of teamwork for a reason. No matter how good you are, many things cannot be done by your lone self. See how it took an entire team to nuke the unsanctioned uranium enrichment plant? It took Maverick, Rooster, Phoenix, Bob, Payback and Fanboy to complete that suicide mission. One person alone would have been nearly impossible.
I have been fortunate to be surrounded by a strong team so far, and that is a testament to the talents at BHM Group. This brings me to the point about the need for a ‘strong’ team or circle of influences.
One of the things I love about my parents is that they cannot stand mediocrity. You are either invested in something or you get the hell out and find something that makes your heart skip a beat. Otherwise, your ‘taste’ for mediocrity will become more refined. Like acid, it seeps from you to your circle, and the other way around – caustic, corrosive, and self-destructive.
Like Maverick, life and work are more fun when you are all in! If PR isn’t what sets you alight, I would strongly suggest you find what does it for you and switch. You need to be an integral part of a strong team doing great work at any point in your life. Yes, there will be lows, but when the highs come let it all be worth it!
- Be ballsy, damn it:
Well, life is for the ballsy who is not scared to step where others hesitate or totter. If you look at the top 20 professionals in the PR industry across the world, apart from being extremely talented, they have been ballsy and pretty stubborn about charting their own paths. Those are the ones to emulate.
One of Phoenix’s big problems at the start of the movie is ‘ultra-carefulness’. Don’t get me wrong, being careful is great, but the mission was tough all by itself, it required the best of the best to push the boundaries of all they knew and to push it some more: and needed an experienced teacher to teach. Despite all the skills and talent in that room, the mission needed near dare-devil confidence that comes naturally. “Don’t think, just do, ” Maverick prayed as Rooster zipped through the enemy mountains. The moment Rooster let go of that fear, everything synched.
Think of PR and any other profession this way. At some point, you need to let go of the fear and just do it. You are scared of public speaking? Paste a smile on your face and ask to do your next presentation. Offer up yourself for things that make you panic a bit. When you get them right the adrenaline rush is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.
Public Relations is an interesting profession and if you are surrounded by people who push you in the right direction, it will be tough as nails but a great experience. There is no need for sugar coating it. But if you are like me, bring on the challenge and let’s do this together!
I think that is it for me. I have watched Top Gun: Maverick twice *covers face* and I am looking for something equally as good or better. Any recommendations of a cool movie that will inspire me to continuously flip the bird at any fears?
- Iretomiwa Akintunde-Johnson, is a lawyer and Lead PR & Comms Adviser at ID Africa, a pan-African communications advisory and executory firm. This piece was written to commemorate World PR Day (WPRD)