These days, characters on TV provide more than just entertainment. In fact, they can teach us valuable lessons when it comes to understanding public relations. Although viewers were sad to see Walter White of “Breaking Bad” leave the screen for good, they were able to take away a lesson or two before his departure.
First, always be ready for a crisis. As Walt and Jesse have seen one too many times, things do not always go as planned. For instance, when Walt and Jesse drive to the middle of nowhere and their car dies, as do their cell phones, we can learn to prepare for those “just in case” moments. You may be able to save your client with this kind of preparation. Another lesson that Jesse teaches us is to keep an eye on our online reputations. In season one, Jesse was known on the internet as “Captain Cook.” This isn’t exactly what you would want appearing in prospective employer’s search results when looking for a job. Managing what you post online will not only benefit you, but also the clients, companies and organizations you represent.
Don Draper of “Mad Men” provides more examples for budding practitioners. Even though Don works in advertisement and not PR, he still offers useful advice through his actions that viewers can learn from. For example, one of his most quoted lines is “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” The goal is to persuade the customer to see your side of the situation, at which point they will act as you had hoped that they would. Taking a cue from the women of “Mad Men,” pay attention to details. Betty Francis and Joan Harris always make sure to look their best. But when applying this to PR, be sure to double-check all of your work to ensure that the quality is of high standards for your client.
Finally, “Scandal’s” Olivia Pope (a character based on Boston University COM graduate, Judy Smith) teaches viewers to never stop learning. There will always be new challenges and events that require different kinds of knowledge to apply when attempting to solve them. The more you know about a problem, the better prepared you will be when handling it. Don’t be afraid to jump right in and ask questions. This will separate you from other hopeful applicants while demonstrating your ability and determination. In episode one, Olivia was required to deflect an accusation against the President and without hesitation, dives right in. In short, be ready to share your ideas, it could be exactly what the company is looking for.
So, the next time you’re sitting in front of your favorite television program, try picking out all of the useful lessons that can be applied to PR. Who knows—maybe today’s entertainment really does hold some value after all.