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Henry Stimpson’s PR and Marketing Tips
Fall 2008

PR Lessons from the Delphic Oracle

I recently visited Greece, including Delphi—home, in ancient times, of the Delphic oracle. To produce her prophecies, the oracle chewed hallucinogenic laurel leaves and/or inhaled volcanic fumes and raved nonsense, which the attendant priests translated into ambiguous prophecy.

The oracle was a smash hit in the ancient world, not just Greece. Potentates as far away as Rome and Egypt—and almost everyplace in-between—sent votive offerings to the oracle.

So the oracle had great word-of-mouth marketing and PR. And it couldn’t have been for the accuracy of her prophecies—the canny priests left them vague enough so you could interpret them any way you want.

But why was the oracle’s advice so sought after? The magnificent mountainside setting with a view to the blue Gulf of Corinth no doubt had something to do with it. Being there, you can readily believe that Apollo and the other gods blessed the place.

Ultimately, the oracle’s fame is a mystery. Somehow, her legend grew and exerted an extraordinarily powerful pull among the ancients.

What has this got to do with PR today? Something, I think.

We’re all promoting organizations and their services or products. And presumably, your organization is doing something that helps its customers a lot more than prophetic ravings.

So, if the ancients could create a powerful legend out of nothing, can’t your organization do something similar with its substantive offerings? Certainly, the rational elements—superior service, expertise, great functionality, good pricing, etc.—are important. But emotional appeals are equally important, even in fields that seem pretty dry.

So, in your PR, appeal to both sides of the human psyche. Your organization could become a legend in its own time.

copyright Stimpson Communications


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