Certain professions seem to have a propensity to inspire TV shows. Let’s name a couple and you’ll undoubtedly be able to think of at least two well-known shows for each – lawyers (“What would Harvey do?”), police officers (“The iconic NYPD Blue”) and even politicians ("Veep”). Even superhero shows, which have taken cues from their successful movie counterparts, are finding their way to the small screen.
Why is it then, that when one thinks of PR or even communications, there seems to be no major show that comes to mind? Putting the seminal "The West Wing" and the slightly derivative "Scandal" aside, taking a quick survey of one’s ‘non-comms’ friends will probably yield a predictable answer – “But what is so exciting?” – to merit a whole TV episode, let alone a season or a series?
It is ironic that the profession which exists to make other shows (among other things) ‘look good’, cannot have its own show that is well recognised. Do note, journalism ( the excellent Newsroom and the slightly preachy Murphy Brown) and advertising (Mad Men, anyone) seem to get their fair share of shows, and some good ones at that.
So, for those producers who are always on the lookout for the next big thing, here’s why PR may just be a great topic for your next show.
1. Central characters you can grow with – Walter White, Homer Simpson, Joey Tribbiani and Arya Stark all have one thing in common – they started off small but today are bigger than the shows they are part of and inhabit popular consciousness long after their shows finish airing. Imagine an executive starting their career in PR and tracing the journey through nerve-wracking campaigns, challenging clients, demanding managers and stakeholders, and the added struggle of having to explain their profession to their peers. Who wouldn’t root for the insignificant other working tirelessly towards building a behemoth brand from the shadows? One can already sense a possible Emmy.
2. Storylines and Conflict– A good show always has you on the edge of your seat, where a story twist subverts the viewer’s expectations and goes in a whole new direction. The one thing all communications professionals can agree upon is the unpredictability of the job, whether it’s agency or in-house. Navigating a crisis while working with cross-functional teams across different regions and time zones, and managing multiple stakeholders surely sounds like a thrilling story arc. Alternately, a single episode focusing on an intern’s struggle to converse with media and clients, while the supervising manager refuses to help, could also make for some grounded and personal storytelling.
3. Villains and Anti-heroes –They say a film is only as good as its villain, so why not a show as well? The central character we grow to love needs to be tested against peers in the workplace and the industry. Given how close communications can be to business and government, along with its evolving relationship with media and advertising, who better to pick than an anti-hero or a villain who can trigger the next crisis? A successful villain could just be a senior team member based in another city who doesn’t get a direct client interface as compared to the executive. Such storytelling could offer a new dimension to the show, along with a possible alternative view to the protagonist’s worldview.
A successful PR show could do more than just be an entertaining hour of primetime television. It could introduce the profession to a larger audience who would come to understand the work done as well as look at the field as a possible career option. In fact, a well-made PR show could bring fresh talent to an industry that is evolving beyond its traditional scope.
If all this doesn’t have you convinced, think of it this way – you may just have some of the foremost minds in the field lending you a hand, if not for any other reason than for finally making a show on PR. Here’s hoping we get one soon.
Sanat Sinha is currently an account manager with Edelman India and was one of the youngest Godrej PRMoment India 30 under 30 recipients in 2017. He writes on communication strategy, culture and technology.