Not even a decade ago, reality television meant cat fights, endless scenes in the club coupled with promiscuity and broken hearts because of a love triangle. Flash forward to 2012…and not much has changed from that, other than the characters. Reality TV used to have a stigma – it was perceived as trash and mind-rotting fodder made only for the younger generation that clearly lacked substance. Now, reality TV stars are permeating some of the most popular industries and have become almost inescapable. The pseudo-celebrities who used to be alienated from society have turned into the aspiration. If the platform and the behavior hasn’t changed, what has?
Public relations can take a great deal of credit for cleaning the coat of the black sheep of the entertainment world. The main difference between reality celebs now versus their predecessors is that the newer members of the clan have sought out the assistance of specialists to brand them. Public relations is definitely about image management, and what we see on our TV screens is no different. The practice is responsible for everything that is put before us, including red carpet interviews, talk show appearances and product releases. This fact explains why celebrities who previously lacked any credibility are now able to claim expertise in the health and beauty care market and have their products flying off shelves, simply because their names are on it.
Whether it’s a teen mom or a group of housewives with entirely too much money to play with, the realm of reality TV has become accessible to all age groups and demographics. Our culture has begun to refer to reality stars by their first names and troubleshoot their problems over brunch as if we know them personally – something that would not have taken place a few years ago. Public relations practitioners have counseled these individuals on topics ranging from perfecting the ability to take an on-screen persona and translating it into a lucrative book deal, all the way to making the public fall in love with catch phrases specific to their character. Such evolutions were no accident – they were carefully planned and perfectly executed strategies. they were necessary alterations to a genre that at one time only catered to individuals who enjoyed seeing cast members argue like savages or go at each other as if they were unleashed cage fighters. Now, we are able to enjoy that same behavior, but with a more relatable story line to harness our interest week after week.
Public relations representatives are keenly aware of the way time changes what the public desires from entertainment. With this knowledge, they feed into our craving to peek into the lives of other people who could just as easily be in our shoes as we could be in theirs. Although a lot more goes on behind the scenes than meets the eye when crafting a reality TV identity, PR has seamlessly made the end results appear to be natural byproducts of the shows themselves. Reality stars are no longer the dumb blondes of the industry, but have been groomed into the entrepreneurs of showbiz. Just as we say in the PR world, perception is reality (television).