A Lesson From Harry Potter

Hp7I just finished re-reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in anticipation of the seventh book in J.K Rowling’s series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which comes out this weekend. It reminded me of what makes a good story with compelling characters, complex and imaginative events, tension, intrigue and heartfelt interaction.  It’s no wonder that it has spawned many books, movies, marketing paraphenalia, online communities/fan clubs and even soon-to-be-built theme park attractions.  According to the WSJ the latest movie has already grossed $140 million since opening July 11th – Wow!

But how does this relate to high-tech PR you are wondering? While there are many lessons that can be learned from the Harry Potter books and ensuing marketing mania, the one most compelling to me is how the books incite discussion and interaction in publications, libraries, bookstores and especially online communities.  It has created a connection across the world to people of all ages who share a similar interest and want to share their views on what will happen in the next book. BusinessWeek mentioned in a recent article how a popular Harry Potter fan site, MuggleNet.com, gets 1 million hits a day. It’s proof to me that online communities can have tremendous power if companies know how to harness it.   

How can high-tech and life sciences companies make their online communities conjure up this kind of magic?   The key is to identify what excites your customers, what makes them think, reach out and want to share ideas.  Understand how they like to communicate and gain information about products. Find themes and issues that connect them to you as a company and to each other. Share your views and they will more likely share their experiences on your site.  Help your customers grow and learn and they will, in turn, help you grow.