This article was originally published on ComeRecommended.com.
For those who haven’t actually experienced the real world of public relations, much of the impressions we get about the job come from movies and television. Unfortunately, it is not often that Hollywood depicts the profession accurately.
PR on Sex and the City is filled with extravagant parties and high profile publicity. Spin City focuses on (as evident from the name) spinning lies and manipulating the public. These ideas tend to be associated with public relations, thanks in large part to these shows, but they’re not really what PR is about. Below are some television shows about public relations, and why they got it wrong:
This show starred Michael J. Fox as Deputy Mayor Mike Flaherty. His character was known for spinning the truth and telling lies in order to maintain the reputation of the mayor. The myth here: PR involves lying.
This could not be further from the truth. In reality, public relations professionals are encouraged to be as honest and open with the public as possible. Every once in a while, a PR professional will get caught lying, and what usually happens is they lose their job. Most PR pros follow a strict code of ethics to ensure transparency and honesty.
The West Wing
On the whole, The West Wing is considered to be a very realistic portrayal of public relations in D.C. The press secretary in the show, CJ Cregg, is almost always handling very important issues with the press and is very good at her job. Despite the accuracy, the public relations in this show cannot be applied anywhere but the White House. The myth here: all PR problems are ground-breaking.
In the show, Cregg is annoyed by the tasks that don’t directly affect politics in the White House. For example, having the President pardon a turkey on Thanksgiving or lead children in song at Christmas. In a less-intense PR niche, these kinds of tasks would be the norm. Government communications is very different from nonprofit communications, which is very different from agency work. PR is different in every niche.
Sex and the City
One show that gets a lot of criticism for its depiction of public relations is Sex and the City. Samantha Jones is a publicist who spends her time planning parties, going to clubs with celebrity clients, and living the good life. The myth here: PR is all party planning.
In reality, event planning is a very small part of public relations (some even consider it a completely separate field). “PR is about coming up with the best solutions to help clients meet their communication or business goals,” according to PRDaily. The profession is strategic and innovative, but it’s not always flashy like the show would make you believe.
Scandal is about a crisis management firm in D.C. run by Olivia Pope. The show entering its third season this fall on ABC and does a great job focusing on the crisis communications aspect of PR. The myth here: PR is about damage control.
Yes, the firm on the show focuses on crisis management, but most real public relations pros aim to avoid crises. They establish plans for if the worst should happen but in general are working with positive aspects of an organization. PR pros work to keep the public in favor of their clients. It’s true that bad things happen and it’s not always in our control, but public relations works to keep constant, positive messages in the media.
Some shows represent the job more accurately than others, but on the whole, the public relations industry is largely misrepresented in Hollywood. It’s important to separate the fiction from the facts.
What do you think? In your experience, how does real public relations compare to its portrayal on television?