I’m going to teach you how to use marketing to rob the Royal Mint of Spain. With marketing.

What, you haven’t seen Money Heist yet and you still clicked on this? Go check out another post.

I’m about to spoil the entirety of seasons 1 and 2.

Also: the videos you see in this post will be violent and vulgar.

“I haven’t seen Money Heist since 2018 – what’s it about again?”

Known as La Casa de Papel in Spain where the show originated, Money Heist is all about a band of robbers who get together to pull off a gigantic job dreamed up by the Professor. Rather than rob a bank or perhaps a casino like in Ocean’s Eleven, the Professor sets his sights higher. He pushes the gang to rob nothing less than the Royal Mint of Spain.

After decades of planning and months of preparation as a group, all the robbers – known by city names such as Tokyo, Denver, and Helsinki – bust into the Royal Mint dressed in red jumpsuits and Salvador Dali masks. Their goal is to take over the machinery needed to manufacture money so that they can create their own unmarked, untracked bills. The idea is to take over the Royal Mint and make a fortune without stealing or killing.

Does it work out that way? Not exactly. But by the end of Season 2, they make off with an obscene amount of money.

Part of what makes Money Heist unique in the heist genre is that the Professor stays on the outside the entire time. A huge linchpin in his plan is to use the media as a weapon against the police. His goal – which he succeeds at – is to make it politically difficult for the police to stop the heist, which must go on for several days in order to succeed.

His public relations strategy is so strong, in fact, that an undiscerning viewer might even take their side. It’s easy to forget that they’re actually dangerous criminals, leaving people with serious physical and psychological wounds.

But whether you see them as Robin Hoods or robbers, it’s still awesome to watch.

A quick primer on public relations (or PR)

I keep talking about how good the Professor is at PR, so let’s talk about what PR is.

Public relations, or simply PR, is the art of reputation management. Every company, big and small, has some PR element to it. That’s because every company wants to be seen in a positive light.

Public relations is all about getting a certain desired message out to your audience, using the tools you have available.

But to go into some more detail, consider this quote from another post of ours on the topic:

First and foremost, PR is necessary to looking professional and keeping a good reputation. By proactively managing your company’s appearance online and in the media, you can make sure that people associate your company’s name with good things. Otherwise, you could be turning away prospective customers before you ever meet them!

Another reason you might want to work on your PR is to increase reach. The basic idea behind marketing reach is the number of overall people who are aware of your products, services, or brand. Even a short segment in the local news, for example, can do wonders for the number of people who have heard of you. The right kind of PR can really help your business build a brand in the eyes of the public.

Lastly, good PR can help you provide a better user experience or customer experience. This can help you to retain customers, which is much cheaper and more cost-effective than acquiring new customers.

14 Easy Ways Your Small Business Can Handle Public Relations, Weird Marketing Tales

Now truth be told, PR can be used for good and for evil. It can enhance good behavior and cover up sins. Odds are, you’re a decent person running an ethical company. But sometimes it’s fun and even useful to look at what the bad guys do, as we will here. After all, if your goal is to look good in the media, you might learn a trick or two from Money Heist’s Professor.

The difference between owned, paid, and earned media

Before we talk about the fundamentals of PR strategy, I need to tell you about the three types of media: owned, paid, and earned.

When you’re trying to get a PR message out there, you have to use one of these three types of media to do it. Owned media includes your social media accounts, your blog, your website, your emails, and anything else that your company outright owns.

Paid media includes advertising, influencer marketing, and other sponsored media. The basic idea is that paid media consists of your pre-approved messages on someone else’s channels.

Then there’s earned media. This is everything you don’t control, and can only influence indirectly. That is, positive reviews from customers, a good ranking on search engines, and mentions in the news.

Earned media is the most powerful of the three. I also mention it here because it is the only type of media that the Professor has at his disposal in Money Heist.

The 4 fundamental steps of any PR strategy

Every good PR strategy ultimately comes down to four basic steps.

1. Outline your goals. It’s super basic advice, but it’s necessary to state all the same. All good PR campaigns are intentional. You must think about the message you want people to take away about your company before you do anything else. Every action you take must align with your goals.

Some things to consider here would include your target audience, your desired message, and your desired business outcome.

2. Create a timeline. A lot of PR comes down to properly timing the release of messages. Too soon and the hype dissolves early or you don’t have the means to serve the surge in demand. Too late and no one shows up to your event or buys your product.

3. Select the right tactics. Depending on your target audience and how they receive information, you will want to choose certain PR tactics. You’re not going to reach Gen Z with TV ads. You won’t reach Baby Boomers on TikTok.

4. Track your results. After employing your PR tactics, you’ll want to examine whether or not you met your initial goals. Frankly, this is really subjective. Good luck trying to measure vague metrics like “impressions” or “consumer sentiment.” But you can generally get a basic feel for whether you succeded or not, and sometimes sales data can verify your gut instinct.

How the Professor in Money Heist used PR strategy to rob the Royal Mint of Spain of nearly a billion euros

The Professor had a very deliberate PR plan from the beginning, which he mostly succeeded in implementing. In fact, where there were mistakes in the heist, they were typically mistakes caused by interpersonal conflict between the robbers or the Professor’s underestimation of the police’s abilities.

So let’s consider how the Professor used the four fundamental steps to implement his PR strategy to phenomenal success.

1. Outline your goals – make police intervention politically inconvenient so the robbers have time to work.

The whole idea of the heist was to take over the Royal Mint and use the machinery to print unmarked bills. Doing that, of course, would take an enormous amount of time – several days, in fact. The Professor correctly figured that it would be nearly impossible to pull this off without manipulating the media.

The crew dressed hostages and robbers in the same clothing – red jumpsuits and Salvador Dali masks. They even gave them fake guns. This made it impossible for the police to tell victim and captor apart, which bought them time. While this has PR implications in and of itself, which I’ll get into soon, on its own, it would not be enough to stall the police for sufficiently long. The Professor correctly assumed that the news media itself would have to take a critical eye of the police.

So what did the Professor want to do? He wanted to cast the robbers in a positive light, making the cops look like a bad guy so that, if they intervened, there would be a public backlash which would bury them in bureaucratic and political hurdles.

2. Create a timeline – every detail of the plan was intricately considered, especially the PR pieces needed to slow down intervention.

The Professor spent about 20 years planning the heist in his head. Every detail of the plan was intricately considered, in an almost absurd level of detail. This doesn’t mean he was omniscient, by any means, but he was able to forecast a lot more than a typical person would have.

Sorry, I only found subbed, not dubbed videos. Definitely watch it with subtitles on, these dubs are goofy.

3. Select the right tactics – the robbers were given specific instructions on how to seem likable in the media.

First, let’s consider broad strategy. The Professor needed the robbers to seem likable – or at least justified in their actions – so that the police would have a hard time intervening. The most important part of this plan was the “no bloodshed” rule. He wanted to goad the police into being the violent ones, so that the Spanish public would see the police as the bad guys rather than the robbers. (This broad strategy worked, although blood was definitely still shed).

Second, the Professor wanted to feed on populist sentiments in order to make the robbers seem justified. And truth be told, Spain was hit harder by the Global Financial Crisis than most other countries. Unemployment, at one point, was almost 27%. It’s been called the Great Spanish Depression. I remember how bad the recession was in the US, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as what Spain experienced.

With the recession in such recent memory, as the show is set in 2017, it’s not hard to imagine the Spanish public taking the robbers’ side, especially if they were nonviolent.

The jumpsuits and masks shared by robbers and hostages alike were chosen for media attention and not just to slow the police down. Indeed, muddying the waters between robbers and hostages led the police to making some critical mistakes, such as shooting the mint’s manager by mistake. This furthered the Professor’s desired message in the media.

Even in his improvisation, the Professor deliberately took actions to make the police look bad.

He punished the robber Berlin for his violent behavior by releasing false information about his crimes. It was later found out that some of that information was false, and the police took the blame. Again, that worked the Professor’s advantage because it made the police look like liars.

At one point, the Professor tricked the police into trading eight hostages for one very important one (an ambassador’s daughter). He recorded that call and leaked it, again making the police look heartless.

When a hostage rebellion started taking place, the Professor authorized the release of specific hostages. This utterly baffled the police and made them look like angels in the media again.

4. Track your results – the Professor remained outside of the heist, allowing him to monitor the news and intervene when necessary.

All this taken together added up. The Professor’s game was to stall. He wanted to delay police intervention by making them look like fools, and he successfully did this.

In the end, the heist crew didn’t end up printing as much money as they wanted. However, they still walked away with nearly a billion euros to split. Their screw-ups had more to do with infighting and the Professor’s myopia in other areas. (Not only did he leave some loose ends, but he also fell in love with the hostage negotiator, which, on balance, seems like an unforced error to me).

Judging on PR alone, the heist was a huge success. The Professor was able to cover a lot of their internal mistakes, which in PR terms could be thought of as crisis management. Plus he was able to successfully control the narrative in the media. In fact, the PR campaign was so successful that in the epilogue, we hear a broadcast saying that the Spanish public generally agrees with the actions taken by the robbers.

Final Thoughts

In addition to being one of the best things on Netflix, Money Heist is a tremendously evocative example of how PR can sway public opinion and change business outcomes. Morality aside, I don’t think anyone could argue that the Professor’s PR plan wasn’t profitable.

The reason the PR strategy in Money Heist works comes down to excellent planning. The core goal was to piggyback off of existing populist sentiments against the police and the financial system. Through deliberate strategic choices, the Professor was able to cast the police as villains instead of heroes, slowing them down for long enough for his crew to do the necessary work.

Both the planned and improvised PR tactics employed successfully edged the team closer to their goal. And in the end, with pockets full of €50 bills and public opinion on their side, the results prove undeniable success.

So if you’re planning a big media push, watch Money Heist and take notes in the Professor’s PR 101 class.

Just don’t rob a bank.