What do I think?

Marketing pros: have you critically watched “The Office” yet?


My favourite episode of “The Office” is “Dinner Party.” Michael and Jan invite Pam and Jim over for a five-hour, foodless, scented candle fiasco that ends with a physical altercation.

I love this episode so much because it resonates with everyone — whether that be a paper employee in 2008 or a marketing executive in 2019. We’ve all been in our own episode of “Dinner Party.”

The fact that I still think about this episode 11 years after it aired, and that I can share it with you here and you probably remember it, goes to show the incredible storytelling, public perception and brand that is “The Office.” In marketing terms, this is a trifecta of Good PR.

So if you own your own business or are a marketing professional, I recommend you go back and watch “The Office” carefully. Here are a few things you can learn about Good PR from the show:

1. Nobody cares about your product

“The Office” is a show about a paper company over 10 years. That synopsis makes the show sound SO boring! But what makes the show beloved is the people in it — not what they do. We get caught up in the will they-won’t they around Pam and Jim, the absurdity that is Dwight Schrute and Michael’s mortifying efforts to get his team to “understand the world” (Prison Mike, anyone?).

Most CEOs and employees walk around telling you what they do. Like Simon Sinek says, the “why” is more important — and memorable — than the “what” and the “how.”

I will remember when you tell me about the guy who loves your company so much that he earned his black belt in the office, or about the client who loves to split an Awesome Blossom with you. Your people and your customers are more interesting than your product. They are what will make people resonate and connect with you.

2. You’re probably screwing up diversity and inclusion, even if you have good intentions

“The Office” contains a flurry of non-PC banter in its episode. No one can forget the horrible Diversity Day, set off by Michael’s racist impression of Chris Rock. Despite Michael trying to fit in with and understand people of all backgrounds, we know he does a terrible job. Why? Because he bases all his diversity efforts on assumptions and stereotypes.

This is not too different than many other companies who are scrambling to look diverse and inclusive, but have no idea how to do it. This is because they act like Michael: they do things that they believe will increase diversity and include everyone, but without asking anyone else what they think. So they end up looking like Michael Klump.

Start asking people about their thoughts on creating a more inclusive culture. Work with groups to create better diversity measures. Do not make assumptions.

3. Wait, why are you rebranding?

Like every company, “The Office” went through a terrible rebrand that almost sunk the show. When Michael decides to leave Scranton and go to Colorado with Holly, we knew “The Office” wouldn’t be the same, but nobody expected it to suck so much afterwards. Andy is no Michael.

After Michael left, it felt like “The Office” lost its core value of using humour as a means for storytelling. The writers started using storytelling as a way to insert cheap jokes and gags, instead of the other way around, so it stopped resonating with its audience.

Your company must evolve and change, but don’t lose your core values. When engaging in a rebrand, the most important question to ask is: Is this aligned with our values? How will it resonate with our loyal customers and our potential new customers? How will we use this rebrand to further our goals?

What is your favourite PR lesson from “The Office”? Comment below!

Sabina Wex