What if the first time you met your new colleagues, it was to join them on a five-year journey into space? That isn’t the reality for most of us, but for Star Trek’s USS Enterprise and it’s crew, that was a reality. At least that’s how it seemed to the television audience. So for our conceit, we wonder, what if the crew of the original USS Enterprise was a comms department? What PR and marketing tactics would each crew member employ?

Beyond the canon that’s resonated with generations of Americans, the characters embodied different aspects of work styles that—if operating in a silo—could be dysfunctional. But they worked well in pursuit of a shared vision: “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” In this same way, comms departments’ and PR agencies’ mission is to broadcast, protect, and elevate their (or their clients’) brand. 

The Enterprise’s crew embodied bravery in a future that questions how humankind interacts with the universe at-large, much like how a brand interacts with its audience. Getting a press release written and out the door is PR 101. But looking at the different approaches that the crew of the Enterprise takes to doing their jobs and considering our PR and marketing work, the parallels are there.

Captain Kirk: Strike First, Ask Questions Later

First up, we’ve got Captain James T. Kirk. His approach to press releases would follow a “spray and pray” strategy. Though Kirk is known for both bravery and heart, he’s of the “strike first and ask questions later” school. As a PR pro, he’ll get those press releases out quickly to as many outlets as he has info for, but this roughshod approach will only net stories as a byproduct of volume. Duplicating successes for future campaigns will be impossible. Though he’ll have no qualms about calling to follow-up, his lack of planning and research is a liability that will have angry journalists wonder why he’s sending them press releases at all. This approach won’t work for the long haul.


Spock: Logical Statistician

Contrast Capt. Kirk with first science officer, Spock, a half-human/half-Vulcan character that (for the most part) dispassionately considers the logical approach to any dilemma. In crafting press releases he’d forgo the traditional story narrative and use data to tell a brand’s story. And even though the data is flawless, the accompanying content is lacking in heart. This one-dimensional approach will work with journalists that are good at reading/visualizing how data can map to relevant narratives, but won’t work for those without time nor inclination to consume data without context. So, even though he’d be great with influencer research, and would have a handle on the probability of specific media outlets or journalists covering his brand, moving beyond this niche group will be challenging.


Bones: Dour Luddite with Heart

Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy is a chief medical officer by profession, a dour realist by personality. Passionate, sometimes cantankerous McCoy frequently argues with Kirk’s other confidant, Spock. McCoy is suspicious of technology, and as a PR and marketing pro would be the writer that is wary of SEO, A/B Testing, and media intelligence to craft campaigns. What he is good at, is writing stories with “heart.” His approach is complimentary to Kirk’s “spray and pray” strategy, but he’ll become increasingly frustrated when efforts yield negligible coverage.

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Scotty: Stressed Out Technician

Montgomery “Scotty” Scott is the engineer of the USS Enterprise. Though a high-stress character, technical knowledge, and skill allow him to devise unique solutions to dire problems. He makes Captain Kirk’s ambitious tactical plans a reality in the realm of the starship’s technical capabilities. As a marketing team member, he’ll stress out when the marketing technology goes wrong but is the voice of reason between what Kirk’s tactics call for and what the available marketing technology stack can accomplish. He keeps the ship up-and-running every day and especially, in crisis.

Uhura: Barrier Breaking Comms Expert

First Communications Officer, Uhura, does not have the same barriers as Kirk and Spock, she’s capable and knows how to use technology to accomplish work goals. Being a linguistics expert, her command of campaign strategy is on point. She’s breaking down barriers in the workplace and though she’s capable, being the first to advocate for new social platforms can make work difficult. She adheres to the “throw it and see what sticks” philosophy, but this can be problematic for colleagues who are less experimental. PR pro Uhura knows that someone needs to be first, so why not the USS Enterprise?


Sulu: Helmsman Steering the Crew

A physicist by training, third officer Sulu is the senior navigator and helmsman that steers the USS Enterprise through uncertain conditions. Since the starship’s goal is to “…go where no man had gone before,” Sulu was off-roading without a map. A well-rounded character, (having interests in botany, gymnastics, fencing, and ancient weaponry) his marketing toolkit would be equally well-rounded. Sulu as a marketing pro would be as proficient using social media as he is writing ebooks, putting on webinars, designing banners, troubling shooting Marketo integration, or writing blog posts. Since he is a doer, he works best as part of a team. As a project manager, he could pitch hit for a variety of marketing roles, but shines best when keeping PR and marketing campaigns on-task and on-schedule.


Chekov: Naive, Yet Capable, Millennial

Pavel Chekov, the young and naïve ensign, and navigator of the USS Enterprise is extraordinarily capable. Chekov can substitute for Spock at the science station and as a marketing professional would be a marketing analyst. Unofficially, by virtue of his birthday, Chekov also represents millennials. When in doubt about the direction of a campaign, all hands on deck can look to Chekov to inject a point of view that is representative of his age and social group’s milieu.

What makes the USS Enterprise work is the combined strength of the crew, outnumbers the shortcomings of the individual members. In this way, cohesive PR or marketing pros can work together to craft campaigns that break with tradition, elevate brands, and contain valuable aspects of the characters of Star Trek. Traits such as a solid data backbone, stories with heart, clear communications, bravery in carrying out a mission, technological skill, differing points of view, and yes, even a touch of “spray and pray.” If you’re part of a PR or marketing team and invested in campaigns that resonate, take a page from the Enterprise: “…explore strange new worlds…boldly go where no man has gone before.” But, consider going with a crew that you can trust to get you to the other side of the universe (and back again).

Download the ebook, How to Be a Top PR or Marketing Intern, if you’d like to impress your colleagues.  And if you’re wondering, yes a few of us enjoy sci-fi

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This post was originally published on this blog on October 30, 2016. On Saturdays, we republish posts, in case our readers missed them the first time around.