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The Battle of Crecy, in 1346, pitted the English against the French . It was a rout of epic proportions. Edward III’s  force crushed the mighty French knights of Philip of France, in the process killing nearly a third of the French nobility.

Crecy was a watershed in the truest sense of the word. It ushered in major changes in warfare, introduced new ‘stars’ like the ‘Black Prince’ and was the beginning of the end of the institution of chivalry.

PR and marketing pros can learn a lot from this battle.

Here are 5 lessons:

  1. He who moves first on speedy new technology wins. The English victory at Crecy owes much to the longbow. Edward’s archers, armed with longbows, could fire arrows considerably faster than the French force could fire their crossbows. In PR and marketing as at the Battle of Crecy, the first to master new tech wins. Edward III knew this, and so long before his campaign in France he’d instiutitionalized archery and the longbow by issuing decrees that all able bodied men were to practice using these weapons. Crecy was also among the first recorded examples of the use of cannons on the battlefield (by the English, not the Frecnh). If you want to stay competitive in PR and marketing you need to make exploring and mastering new technology part of your culture.
  2. Size doesn’t always matter. One of the most amazing things about the English victory at Crecy is that Edward’s forces were grossly outnumbered – by some accounts there were 16,000 English versus 38,000 French. But the English kicked ass, killing 20 Frenchman for everydead Englishman. Similarly, in PR and marketing, a lack of resources don’t mean that small players can’t cream bigger ones by embracing new technology and the right tactics.
  3. Choose your ‘agents’ carefully. At Crecy, the French hired outside ‘agents’ in the form of Genoan mercenaries (they were almost all crossbowman and numbered about 6000). The Genoans were an ill-disciplined shitshow. They mismanaged their equipment to the point that it did not work, and fled the battlefield when the going got rough. Here is the lesson for modern PR and marketing pros: outsource carefully. Do your homework about the agents you hire. If you don’t, they may desert you at your most needy hour.
  4. Give your young’uns a chance to prove themselves. We coddle our young in the PR industry. It’s a strange propensity. At Crecy, the Black Prince – then 16 years old – commanded an English division. When the going got rough and the young prince’s force came under heavy attack, his father decided not to send help, saying the the boy “should earn his spurs.” It meant that the young man had to figure things out for himself. He became a hell of a soldier. The lesson: let the young people in your shop try things. Let them make mistakes and don’t treat them like babies. They’ll get better at their jobs.
  5. Cast off old notions or be killed. Crecy is often regarded as one of the first battles where the old norms articulated in chivalric codes were cast aside. A glaring example of this is the fact that “ordinary” infantryman killed knights – an idea anathema to the old concept of chivalry which held the nobles only fought and killed nobles. In the last 10 to 12 years PR and marketing pros who espoused only “old” tactics like buying media and blasting press releases have failed miserably. In our game, as at Crecy, old notions and beliefs have to constantly be updated, refined or cast aside. The alternative is to end up like those lumbering French knights.

Have a great weekend!

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