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3 communications tips we learned from the second-to-last episode of Game of Thrones

May 13, 2019

For the last seven Mondays, many of us at Sprocket have been unable to start a conference call or send a work text without first addressing and dissecting the most important thing happening this year/our entire lives: the final season of Game of Thrones.

As the series comes to a close, every episode is chock full: of storylines harkening back to earlier seasons; of characters meeting their ends in ways that viewers find unfair or dissatisfying; of still-unfinished business with Khaleesi and Cersei.

But despite being controversial and sometimes frustrating, there are always lessons for communicators—and, you know, everyone with a beating heart—to learn from the final season. Below, we’ve picked Episode 5’s three key lessons for communicators. Spoilers abound.

Hand-picked influencers can relay your message better than yelling it from the rooftops ever could.

RIP Varys, Master of Whispers. The dude could gather intel and seed out his chosen narrative better than anyone else. His last campaign—to unseat Dany because she’s off her rocker, and replace her with the more even-keeled/possibly just moronic Jon Snow AKA Aegon Targaryen—did him in. But that doesn’t mean his strategy of having sources large and small all over the kingdom wasn’t smart. Quite the opposite: it allowed him to shape the future of Westeros for decades.

Varys’ strategy makes sense outside the Seven Kingdoms, too. Savvy marketers know that when a consumer hears about a product from a third party (rather than from the brand itself) the story is more compelling, and the consumer is more apt to trust that the product or service lives up to the hype.

Basically, Varys was running an influencer campaign. He motivated his network to tell the story that he wanted told. Brands can do the same by identifying key influencers who are well-positioned to tell their brand story, and seeding the story out. Of course, brands generally are trying to sell product, not unseat tyrants, so hopefully no brand’s methods are as shady as Varys’ was in Ep 5.. (But then again, he was right, sooooo.)

Show, don’t tell.

Khaleesi didn’t just say she was going to win The Last War. She proved it through action—albeit through bloodshed, hellfire, and a complete 180 from the person she was two seasons ago.

As gut-wrenching as the leveling of King’s Landing was to watch, it drove home the point: Khaleesi had waxed poetic for years about how she would conquer Westeros. No one really knew if she could do it until she did it.

Similarly: brands can talk about how great their products are until they’re blue in the face, but they’ll really drive the point home when they prove they’re the best, whether by winning competitions, beating industry sales records, or by doing something that’s never been done before...like decimating cities via dragon fire?

Pacing, planning, and timing matter.

This lesson is more of a rant: it may just be a personal complaint, but the pacing of Season 8 has been...messy. Jamie is locked up somewhere seemingly far from King’s Landing, and then in his next scene he’s in the city, raising his golden hand?

Sure, viewers don’t want a bunch of down time, but maybe have 8 episodes that are 50 minutes each instead of 5 feature-length films where characters disappear here and pop up hundreds of miles away? Or at least add a scene of Bran uselessly warging? It could just be 2 minutes, but with Bran “Snoozefest” Stark on the screen, it will seem like an eternity has passed, making viewers desperate to return to someone—literally anyone—else’s storyline.

ANYWAY, I digress. But this season’s pacing drives home the fact that timing and planning matter. Just remember: you can’t expect to take your sweet time and then rush reporters, influencers, or brand ambassadors to deliver in 5 seconds flat. Identify your key pulse points and plan accordingly.

Ok, this was really just an excuse to keep talking about Game of Thrones. What were your favorite moments of Ep. 5? What were your biggest gripes?