Yesterday, April 5, ABC debuted a new original series titled “Scandal.” If you missed the first episode you can watch it online on ABC’s website, but check out the trailer below. The release of this show circulated throughout the public relations community, and for good reasons. The series “Scandal” is based around the inner workings of a crisis management firm. Of course the actors are not portrayed as public relations practitioners but are former lawyers who now focus on the client issues and nothing else. Okay, we’ll take it.
Although in its first season, what does this show mean for public relations education, if it means anything at all. It’s the first time a television show focuses on an aspect of public relations beyond the traditional event planners and publicists (ie. Kell on Earth, My Fair Wedding, PR Girls, etc.). If I’m wrong in this assessment, please let me know. But here are some takeaways from the launch of the series that I think should be highlighted in regards to teaching public relations.
- Importance of research— In the first episode you hear the main character, played by Kerry Washington, continuously state “I need more” in regards to the issue at hand.
- Diversity–Granted,there are only two African-American characters with respect to the firm; however, the lead role is played by an African-American female.
- Relationship building— Throughout the series you see the characters rely on their established relationships with the media, authority figures, etc. I don’t agree with all the tactics, but it is Hollywood and you have to make it good.
- Work ethics— I must admit I enjoy the mantra “We are gladiators in suits.” This statement says a lot about how they perceive themselves and even how they are perceived.
- Strategic thinking— Again, I may not agree with all the tactics used in the television series, however, there were instances in which the crisis management team was strategic with regards to when they approached individuals, where they approached them, who communicated the message, and how the message should be communicated. There were also instances when you saw strategic thinking in regards to data collection.
- Niche market— Due to the plethora of shows portraying public relations as all glitz and glam many students (and several adults) perceive the field as something anyone can do. Even in many job situations the lines are blurred between public relations, advertising, and marketing. Although we could debate that fact, the point is public relations is a niche market, just as crisis management is a niche market. If you don’t think public relations is a niche market, talk with individuals who have practiced in any of the aforementioned industries and they will tell you there are some stark differences.
I know the aforementioned list are things discussed in most, if not all, public relations programs, yet it is nice to see this angle of public relations playing on a large screen than some of the previously mentioned shows. Students are visually oriented (along with the rest of us), but at least this series goes beyond the typically party and glam aspect that has been pushed in mainstream as a public relations practitioners job. (Sidebar: Those people are publicists, not practitioners.) Maybe in the future I will be able to credit this series to some of the influx in students desiring to study public relations, as oppose to the show Sex and the City.
I did not touch on the cons of this show in regards to public relations education, so do chime in. What are the cons of this show in regards to public relations education?
If you are interested in learning about the inspiration for this series, read more in The Washington Post Entertainment section. I think you’ll be glad you did.
Share your thoughts.