“Book of Mormon” –Turning a Joke into an Opportunity

Last night I attended the opening night performance of the “Book of Mormon” Boston run.  I am a total musical theater geek and have been so looking forward to attending this show. It’s sold out and it’s become impossible to score a ticket (and by the way, the show is everything it was cracked up to be, and more—LOVED IT!).  My 13-year-old son, who typically has no interest in a ticket to anything that doesn’t involve goals, runs or baskets, asked if he could come with me.  Please don’t judge me on my parenting—I knew there would some questionable and mature language and content, but didn’t realize that his vocabulary would be so inelegantly expanded.  We’ll get past that.

Anyway, I digress.

I settled in to my seat and started rifling through the Playbill, expecting the usual—info about the show and its performers, ads for wealth management, restaurants and future performances, and of course, three full-page ads for the real Book of Mormon and the Mormon church.  Huh???  I had to take a second look: was this part of the show? A continuation of the irreverent take on the Mormon religion that is at the heart of the performance? Nope.  These were ads with a call to action to read the real Book of Mormon, with one simple bit of copy on each one: “I’ve read the book,” “The book is always better,” and “You’ve seen the play…now read the book.”

Religious preference, beliefs and opinions aside, this is brilliant PR.  Where else would the Mormon church find a captive audience of potential non-Mormons engrossed in the topic of the Mormon religion? So PR 101, they found a potential target audience and found a way to reach them.

But if PR 101 is about reaching your target audience, PR 102 has to including combatting negative messaging.  You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks the musical “Book of Mormon” is a glowing ad for the church.  However, it seemed that the church realized there was no way around the stereotypes and parodies in the show, and rather than retreating from them, addressed them head on through these ads.

I was expecting to have to explain some new, um, “terms” to my son last night, but had no idea this would be an opportunity for a lesson in what makes good PR.  In addition to the other, um, anatomy and “language” lessons that came during the show.  I’m sure that the good PR lesson is what he’ll remember.  Or at least I can tell myself that before the laughs, there was one teachable moment.  And then we laughed our “you-know-whats” off.

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