PR Manager for a Superhero Part 3 – Are you going to be a Superman or a Spiderman?

differentiate or emulate“Is this you?” I asked, holding up a newspaper with a photo of a masked man in the blue suit carrying a woman out of a burning building. The caption read Mr. Freeze saves the Day!

“Yeah,” Max said with a grin. “The building was coming down so I froze the outside to hold it up and ran in to save everyone, I was incredible.”

“What about this one?” I asked holding up another paper showing a man dragging two would be kidnappers towards a police car. Both suspects looked as if they had been ever so slightly burnt. The headline read Human Torch Captures Kidnappers.

“Yeah,” he said. “I saved two little girls.”

“Considering you’re the only one that can fly I assume this was you?” I asked, holding up a third newspaper with the headline Mysterious Flying Man Intercepts Touchdown Pass. “Fancy, yourself a football player now?” The annoyance was starting to show in my voice.

“I was just having a little fun,” Max said defensively, “What’s the big deal?”

“This for one thing,” I said, slamming a fourth newspaper down. Is there something in the water? Three apparent superheroes spotted throughout the city read the headline. “What did you hire me for?” I asked. I answered my own question before he had the chance, “you hired me to handle you PR. I can’t do that if you’re out running wild and let the media feed on all the things you’re doing. I don’t know if you know this Max, but you’re one hell of a story! They think there are three people with super powers out there, not just one. What’s worse is that the media has started branding you themselves. Do you want to be Mr. Freeze / The Human Torch / God knows what? We can go back to The Flaming Penguin if you’d like.”

Max stared at me for a number of seconds before he realized I was looking for some form of response. “I’m sorry,” was all he said.

“Look, you want me to manage the public opinion of you. To do that I need to control the media and the media is a malicious beast you certainly aren’t ready for. Until we nail down how we want to present you to the public you need to lay low,” I said more calmly, realizing he had gotten my point.

“So what do I do about the media coverage?” He asked

“I’ve taken care of it,” I responded. He gave me an odd look. “I got a friend to write a piece on his blog claiming that these were elaborate stunts for the latest Marvel movie. I’ve been promoting his article to bigger blogs and the Local News.  I’ve already had a number of them pick it up. All it takes now is a random tip to the Metropolitan News and the whole city will think it was all just an elaborate promotion,” I finished.

He looked at me like I was mad. “That’s supposed to work?” He asked scrupulously.

“It already has,” I answered, as I turned my monitor around to show the Metropolitan News’s Twitter feed ‘#BREAKINGNEWS: New Marvel movie in the works. Superhero sightings all a promotion! More at 9.’

“But you just made it up,” Max said.

I smiled. “Welcome to modern news. That first blog post was picked up by three little blogs which then spread to about 30 other blogs. Three big blogs took notice that 30 ‘medium’ sized blogs were writing about this, and after three major blogs pick it up it is basically news. Yeah, if someone tracked the story back to my friend’s blog then they could realize it was all made up, but news today is about speed of getting the story out because that’s how you make money. No one cares if the news is accurate they care if they get it out before their competitors.”

“So, what about when I do actually want to be noticed? Won’t they think its more promotions?” He asked.

“Max,” I said, “I can fly and make ice and fire. Do you really think you can’t convince people you’re the real deal?”

“Well then let’s get going. I need a suit and a logo,” He said, clearly eager to get going.

“We’ll start on the logo, I have someone coming in later this afternoon to work on the suit.”

Three hours later.

“Why can’t it be a blue fire breathing dragon?” He said.

This wasn’t going well. My desk was covered in sketches of possible logos. None of the designs were bad per say, but none of them were right either. It was a weird situation that I often found myself in when working on designs. I wasn’t happy with them, but I had no idea why I wasn’t happy with it, and therefore couldn’t fix it. “It needs to be simpler. It needs to be something kids can sketch on note books and made easily on to t-shirts. Needs to be something the public will share and love.”

“Why can’t I just do a big S like superman did? An M for Max,” He asked

“First of all, that S isn’t an S for Superman. It’s a Kryptonian symbol for hope and you know what? That’s exactly what we need. We need a logo that is a symbol for something. A symbol for what you represent.”

“Sometimes I wonder why you’re single, then I hear you speak.” The voice came from the door way. The man entered. He was tall and stood confidently. He was wearing jeans, a white t-shirt, and a leather jacket. He held a motorcycle helmet at his side and had a messenger bag slung across his back. “What happened to all those ‘nice’ girls you’re mother had set you up with?” He asked.

I ignored the question “Max, this is Kyle. When it comes to design and fashion Kyle is one of the best in the city.”

Max looked at Kyle curiously. “He’s the fashion expert you had coming in to design my suit?” He asked.

“Is there something wrong with that?” I asked.

“I don’t know I just assumed they’d be female, and if they were male rather flamboyant. Isn’t that the typical fashion designer?” Max asked.

“Well frankly I assumed you’d be taller, have a fondness for glasses and reporting the news, not to mention frolicking around in a pretty cape,” Kyle responded in good humour. “Now if we’re done with the stereotypes how about we get down to business?”

“Sounds like a plan,” I said, before max got the chance to ask another stupid question.

Kyle began, “we need to decide if you want to emulate the typical idea or be totally different and make your own image.”

“What do you mean?” asked Max.

“You’re going into a pretty established market. The public has a lot of preconceived notions of what a superhero is. They hear superhero and they think Batman or Superman. These are both positive images for people. Emulate them and those positive views will be transferred to you because the public will make the connection between yourself and them.”

“Why wouldn’t I want that?” asked Max. “It seems like that does half of Kevin’s job for him.”

“Well there’s risks that come with this. Those lofty positive views come with lofty expectation. You want to act like Superman you better meet the expectation that come with Superman or you’ll be seen as some cheap knock off,” Kyle answered. “Try entering the phone market acting like iPhone. Unless you have a huge amount of capital you can’t pull off the same things as Apple and you’d fail because of it.”

“It’s not like Superman and Batman are even real,” Max said.

“The public’s view of them is real and therefore we have to act like they are,” I answered.

“Exactly,” Kyle smiled. “Do you know why Spiderman is incredibly popular?” Kyle asked, and then continued without waiting for an answer, “It’s because he was different. Superman, Batman, The Hulk, Ironman, Thor, Wolverine, ect. are all big strong dudes who beat their enemies to a pulp. Then there’s spidey, quick, agile, and crafty. He beat his opponents with speed and outsmarting them. He was different from the typical superhero model and therefore he stood out to the public.”

“So I be something new,” Max said confidently.

“There’s issue with that too,” Kyle answered to the disappointment of Max. “The reason Superman and Batman are popular are because their concept works. You come in with something new and unfamiliar you’re going to have to work even harder to make the public like you. You’re going to need to build their trust and make them love you.”

“Well I pay Kevin to handle the public,” Max answered.

“Technically you haven’t paid me anything yet,” I answered, “but yes, that is my job to make the public love you.”

“Then we do something innovative,” Kyle said with a grin. “Which makes my job much more exciting. I can probably have it done in three days.”

“Do I not get any say in the design?” Max whined.

“Please, in that belt and shoe combo?” Kyle said with a smirk as he headed out the door.

“What did he mean by that?” Max asked looking down at his outfit.

“Don’t worry about it” I answered. “Now take a look at this” I said as I slide a sketch I had been working on for a logo.

“A phoenix?” Max asked

“I think it will work well for you. I mean you came from out of nowhere. Plus you’ve already got the whole flying over the city leaving a trail of fire behind you” I said.

“I can work with a phoenix” Max said. “So do I get to go back out saving the city?”

“Not a chance” I answered.

Max looked shocked “Why not” he said clearly mad.

“We don’t have everything in place yet. If you go out now I can’t control the media let alone the public. Give me time and I promise everything will go smooth once we finally take flight” I answered.

“Was that a superhero pun? ‘Take flight’? Really Kevin?” Max said clearly not impressed. “So what do I do till then?”

“You lay low, but for now we have a lot of work to do. We can’t go into this like Lord Chaos, needs to be more of a Professor X planned out strategy. If we plan it right then you’ll certainly be a ‘super man’ with the public” I said laughing to myself.

“Seriously?” Max asked. “That last one was quite the stretch”

“Mister Fantastic would be proud” I answered, laughing more than the joke warranted.

“I’m leaving Kevin.” Max said. He was turning to the door but I caught just the hint of a smile. Its good to know that my humour isn’t completely going to waste. As he left my office I leaned back in my chair. Boy had my life been a whirlwind lately, and I hadn’t really even done anything yet. When we go public with Max it was going to either make or break my career, not that I had much of a career to break at the moment.

Let me know what you think!

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