“Scandal”: Is it good for public relations education?

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.




Filed under personal thoughts, public relations

60 responses to ““Scandal”: Is it good for public relations education?

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  3. I think Scandal is too harsh of a word to use when talking about PR. I really prefer the phrase “crisis management.” It makes it sound way more calm and in control. In my opinion, when I think of the word “Scrandal.” I think of a situation that can’t be helped because it’s already out of control. Crisis Management is better.

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  5. Of course it’s good for public relations! It’s about the only positive press if any that the industry will get. Americans have very short attentions spans so whether or not it has positive or negative effects, nobody will care in a few months.

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  7. coquinn

    I watched the trailer and immediately set my DVR to start recording the show. It looks like a great show, and a nice change from typical subject matter. There are so many shows about detectives, lawyers, etc. but this one is different which is refreshing. Im excited to see what it does for the industry. I just hope it doesn’t over-glamorize the field too much.

  8. For starters, I LOVE Kerry Washington! Great actress.A fter watching the trailer I really want to see the show. Fortunately, my apartments just got a new cable service provider so I can now watch it. For them to not attribute their work title to public relations was kind of weird to me. I mean why not? The trailer makes it seem as that’s exactly what they are. It did show that her job can be very intense at times also. Hopefully this will result in an increase in more PR majors.

  9. Keeping in mind that I haven’t actually watched the show, I’m really glad about the buzz the show has created.It is nice that there is a show out emphasizing the more realistic side of PR. Media tends to give certain misconceptions. Hopefully, I’ll be able to catch an episode before the season is over.

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  11. britjolley

    I have mixed emotions about the show. Ultimately though, I believe the pros outweigh the cons, and I think the show could be a great educator to its viewers concerning the profession of public relations. I am glad there is some form of mass media communication out there that, like you said, goes beyond the typical event planners and publicists we see today. This is what this show represents. Crisis management is such a huge and crucial part of public relations. It becomes increasingly important when working with political figures who are supposed to serve as honest role models who lead their people. I agree with the importance of research and diversity. Before running wild with a scandal or issue, every detail possible needs to be known, and this can only come from investigating and gaining research. I love that the lead role is played by an African American female. Once again, I feel as if the public’s main perception of public relations professionals are white females who throw parties or help get their clients publicity. To see a black educated female, a lawyer for that matter, be in charge of handling affairs is awesome! The industry needs more portrayals such as this to get people out from under their rock when it comes to what they believe PR to be. Of course, there is going to be fabrication when it comes to relationship building and strategic thinking, simply for entertainment purposes. Something has to keep the viewers watching, so factual tactics in these regards may be absent. I feel as if the “We are gladiators in suits” is a perfect description for the industry of public relations, especially when it comes to crisis management. You have to be tough yet creative and pleasant. You have to be hard-working and able to handle stress. You have to possess the ability to get up when you get knocked down. Dealing with situations can wear on and individual’s nerves and be very hard at times, but by being a “gladiator”, they can handle the issue with style and grace if they’re good at what they do. I feel like the major cons would be such fabrications, such as the gun scene and the actual seriousness of situations. Yes, in some instances, events like that may occur. But the likeliness is not very high (in my opinion). Things like that are simply for entertainment purposes and may misguide those who are not really familiar with the crisis management aspect of PR. Crisises within organizations or companies can be a tiny minute thing that still serve of great importance to the organization’s image.

    -Brittany Jolley

  12. I have only seen the previews for it so far, but it is on my list of shows to watch! I think that it is awesome that ABC has a show that features some aspects of Public Relations, and more specifically a part of PR that hasn’t really been shown before- crisis management. This show is going to show viewers that PR is not all about the glamor and fashion. Also, I think that this show will make people see that PR is a serious field of work and its not as easy as people believe it to be, there is a lot of research and planning behind everything and it’s not meant for everyone.

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  14. brittanyforrester

    I, personally, am addicted to this show. I think its soooo good! And, now that I think about it, it definitely is all about aspects of PR. They really do all aspects of the RACE acronym that we have learned throughout the semester. Although the lead role is a woman and its definitely drawing off stereotyping the industry, I still think there is a lot someone can learn from this show about how to efficiently do a job well.

  15. I just watched the trailer and it was so intense lol. It was not what I expected at all! It really surprised me to see the way they set up the show. It looks like it is kind of going to be a really good fast paced show. Public relations is such a fast paced field and I have never seen a show portray this. I will definitely tune into the next episode.

  16. I haven’t seen the show yet but have heard nothing but good things about it! I will definitely tune in because I want to support the show since there are not many if any shows that show this side of public relations. I really like that the main character is a black woman because I want to have my own PR firm. In the post you said that she always says she needs more information. That is something that I have learned this semester that you have to do a lot of research in this field.

  17. I absolutely love the show! The first thing that I noticed about the show was how fast paced it was. I always knew PR was a very fast paced career but geez, do they ever sleep? The show highlights a lot of what we talked about in class, such as political and social PR, crisis management, etc. I found myself watching the show and started to second guess if I really wanted a life like that and then I realized that it was just a drama. Hopefully future PR majors won’t look at the show as an exact replica of what PR really is. Other than that the show is great !

  18. I really enjoy this show! It is nice that it highlights some of the topics you mentioned in your post and its finally a new take on PR. I would hope that this show will encourage a greater number of diverse people to look into the field. I am also a lover of sex and the city and I discovered in regards to public relations, I enjoyed and learned more from this show than SAC.Also, the lead actress is saucy and it helps show that not everyone can do this job and that you need actual gumption to accomplish any goals.

    • When It it first debut on the network, I was not able to catch the show what so ever due to a lot of things I had going on but I watch it online and I find the show quite interesting. I want to say that It is entertaining but I hope people don’t get caught up. in all the drama. I hope people don’t watch the show and think they are going to have affairs with the president or anything as wild as that. I hope there are people who can separate the entertainment and what PR really is. Over all it is a good show and I hope it gets a good following.

  19. I actually attempted to watch the show last night. I now realize that the older I get, The harder it is to hold my attention. I probably would continue watching it for the “scandal(s)” but as far as public relations, I feel that this would be a NO GO. How many people ACTUALLY get a the main characters job? Its just like the Sex in the City and Samantha’s career, its glamed up by TV. I feel like shows like this only hurt the field, because it will have a major influx. Just like with the television show CSI, or Law and Order and the influx of people wanting to major in forensic science. A lot of people actually ended up dropping out, or switching their major because they soon learned that they could not be Horatio Cane (a detective, and a forensic scientist at the same time? I THINK NOT)

    So for the entertainment purposes, YES. I’ll watch

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  21. I am a diehard Scandal fan because of our discussion in class! I am not much of a TV watcher, but this show has me hooked. I think that Olivia Pope’s backbone in every situation shows the public just how strong you have to be in order to work in the public relations world. I think that some of her team’s tactics are not ethical, but it is Hollywood and I am not sure that if it were real life that it would actually occur that way.

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  23. I had never even heard of this show until we talked about it in class but I am glad we did. This show hasn’t been on long and I am already obsessed with it! I’ve told most of my friends about it and my family. The show is very entertaining and i’m sure if some people do go into crisis management they will encounter serious cases but this is a television show so most of it is added drama to make the show entertaining.

  24. Heather Landry

    I have yet to see the first episode but I was interested in watching it after seeing trailers on ABC as well. I think this series will be good to show that public relations isn’t the glamorous event planning most people assume. Crisis management—that seems out of the box for PR on TV! Although we may not agree with all the tactics they will use, producers are going to create plots that are more intriguing to the audience. A lot was clearly revealed during the first episode, and I am excited to see what will come of the show.

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  28. realityoftoday

    I haven’t watched this show, and with my schedule of shows and academics, I’m not sure that I plan to; that said, I think the show does offer both positives and negatives to the field.

    Of course, the positives are all the things you listed, not the least of which being that it makes the career appear to be more about thinking and less about parties. It’s always helpful for “good” representations to appear in mainstream media; you’ll get more academic types coming to the major with the understanding that they’re working with clients and publics, not making everybody look good with a martini in hand. I think that as far as mainstream television goes, it’s a good start.

    However, you’re also going to run into the cons. Television dramas don’t survive without the, well, drama, and I’m sure there will be story arcs that involve characters in romantic or compromising situations. Hollywood is notorious for taking any field and making it more intense than it actually is, or tweaking the facts just enough to hook viewers.

    Overall though, I think that the show is a step in the right direction.

    Melanie Underwood

    • I absolutely love this show! Even though, yes, I am one of those big Sex and the City followers, as well as The Spin Crowd, I do enjoy the complete out of control drama of these shows. As for Scandal I really enjoy the view from the true PR perspective, even though it’s not based on PR professionals. Crisis management is such an important factor of PR now, whether it’s because public figures and companies screw up more now or they have just had to become more transparent(willingly or not) because of the media take over in the last decade. I think this is a great thing for PR…or at least those who really understand it.


  29. I enjoyed the trailer for this show but I can’t say that it is something that I see myself watching every week. If I was not a public relations student I might not even realize that they are using PR tactics in the show. To me the show looks entertaining at best but I don’t see how it could effectively teach students about PR any better than in the classroom. Because it is a television program they have to have the exaggerated drama and they have to condense the work to fit the 60 minute time slot. I think that this show would be a good attention grabber and maybe spark some interest in public relations, especially because the lead actress being African-American. However I do think that no matter what it is going to be difficult to really showcase the field of public relations in one television show.

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  31. I really enjoyed watching the trailer for this show. I feel like it has some definite pro’s and con’s in its presentation of the Public Relations field. I think that some of the obvious pros are that it is a show that shows a side of the Public Relations field. Other than Sex and the City, I’m not sure if I know of anymore popular cultural texts that show a side of the PR field resulting in some misconstrued perceptions of a PR practitioner. I think that through this show people can have a good glimpse at some of the concepts and theories that are practiced by practitioners which can spark some interest in the field and, thus, more involvement. I also believe, however, that any primetime television show that is put on for entertainment contains many many flaws. These flaws can lead to a dramatized look at the PR field which can be damaging to people’s futures when they get into a field that they actually don’t have a passion for. Overall, I believe that this show looks very interesting and should be watched but adapted constantly to better reflect the PR field as much as possible.

  32. Although I have not seen the show, I have seen it on commercials and it looks very interesting! I am curious to see how it follows in public relations and to see if it follows in appropriately since many television shows and movies that deal with public relations do not do so enough. Like in the movies and television shows it portrays PR in the more glamourous life, when in this show called Scandal it can give a different image relating it to politics. I am excited to see what this show has to bring!

  33. Jaquaysha

    I’m not really one to watch television, so I will probably never see this show at all. However, just from watching the trailer, this could give a good insight of what someone in public relations and law just might do. I’m a double major and Political Science is my other major so this is a pretty interesting concept based around law. Also, Kerry Washington is beautiful African American actress that is playing someone educated, we needed more of that on television. There are not too many black public relations professionals. Maybe young African American’s will watch the show, get interested and say, “Hey, what exactly does she do?”.

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  35. I have heard so many people raving about the new show Scandal. I am glad that you posted the trailer on here for us to watch because I am now hooked. Although I am not intending on going into the crisis management field in Public Relations, I think there are many things that we, as PR students, can learn from the show. I also believe that this shows us how to handle a myriad of issues that we can all use no matter where we end up in the field. I think they play up the job a lot and dramatize a lot of things, as usual in Holywood,but as we have discussed in other blog posts, many people don’t know exactly what PR is. I think that this show will give people a general idea of what one area of Public Relations is. I am truly hoping that they will not give the field a bad name and will reflect a positive light about Public Relations. I guess we will find out as more episodes air! I am setting my TiVo for a season pass now!!

    Carson Dreggors

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  37. I planned on watching this show but never did when it aired. I do like that they chose and African American as the lead of the show. We know that there are way less African Americans in PR so it kind of breaks the mold. I’ve only watched the trailer so I don’t really know the FULL premise of the show, but from what I can see it is mainly focusing on the government and the president. I think I would like it better if it was expanded into corporations or entertainment. That’s just my opinion though. I hope this series picks up and becomes a hit!

  38. dylankeene

    After watching the trailer for the show I was really interested in it. I really like how ABC has come out with this type of show because it is so different than anything that they have produced before. I like how they have only 24 hours to get the problem fixed in the show because it gives it that fast paced feel kind of like the show 24 did. Another reason I am really interested in it is because crisis management is something that really interests me a lot and I could see myself potentially working in that area. Hopefully I will have time to watch this show and see how well it ends up doing!

  39. Hmmmmm………… after watching the video, I think I would at least try and give the show a chance. It does seem a little “action packed” to be a show revolving around crisis management. i feel as if the main character is somewhat like a secret agent or something lol. But… I guess I will just need to watch a full episode to get a full feeling for the show.

  40. I was not aware that this show even existed but after watching this, I feel that I might actually check it out. I think that I would learn a lot of information about the PR industry, and it would give me a better understanding of what to expect.

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  43. Although I still haven’t been able to watch this show, I’m excited about it. As we’ve discussed in class, and I’ve mentioned a few times on my blog, public relations isn’t usually represented appropriately on television. The example I usually come back to is Samantha on Sex and the City. She’s presented as working in public relations even though she’s more of a publicist. I, too, hope this show will do a better job representing.

    Samantha Shore

  44. I haven’t seen the first episode, but the trailer makes me want to see it. It would give an interesting show to start watching and keep up with. I’d love to see how closely they truly do follow PR and how far they take certain areas of PR. Hollywood obviously makes everything look more glamorous than it really is in real life, it would still be a good experience to keep up with this show. I am totally down to start watching it!

  45. I’d have to agree with Jordan. But like anything in Hollywood, some things just aren’t going to be plausible. I’m sure real crime scene investigators and police men and women feel the same way about Law and Order an CSI that PR majors feel (or will feel) about Scandal. It’s entertaining, and some things may ring true in the real world, but some of it is purely for entertainment purposes.

  46. I have never heard of this show but after watching the trailer it seems like something I would really be interested in! I feel like there are not that many
    shows out on the market right now dealing with public relations and crisis management firms. I think this show will help show the world a little insight of what public relations practitioners do in everyday life. Although this show may be a little played out and a bit more dramatic than the average public relations job, I think it will give people who are not sure what PR is, a better understanding. I cannot wait to start watching this new series!

    -Allison Rachman

  47. I am beyond excited about the launch of this show! I saw Kerry Washington interview on the Today Show last week and was captivated by her professionalism and breath of fresh air she brings to primtime television! I think that the launch of this show will help give insight to others that may not realize what PR professionals do. I know the characters are not portrayed as PR practitioners, but if the world of PR starts creating buzz about the resemblance of PR professionals and the television show then word will spread and it will get viewers talking!

  48. I have not seen this show yet but I am definitely interested in watching it now. I am glad to see that there is a PR show that is not only focused on the glam and glitz of Public Relations but on the hard work and determination that goes into it. I really liked how you made points from this show that you took away from the first episode. Just seeing all that you took away from the first episode makes me want to watch it even more!

  49. Jordan

    I feel like people who watch the show will oversimplify the field. Like you said it it a niche market and not everyone is cut out for PR. Some tactics in the show may be plausible in real life, other may be completely outrageous. Point is, real life is nothing like Hollywood so assuming anything on TV is %100 like reality will get you absolutely no where.

  50. I have not seen the show yet but I have viewed the preview. I think this show is going to be very interesting because it is one of the first shows that give a different aspect of public relation. Just like you stated many people have this idea that becoming a PR is just dealing with being glamorus, party life, and thinking its easy but its more than that. I do see Scandal doing well because its dealing with politics and portraying what type issues that might go on in real-life “behind the scence”. One thing I do like is they have a African-American woman playing the lead making it more diverse. The only con that would come from this show is the issues being exxaggerated and viewers might get the wrong idea. When people look at this show this might be the only time they are exposed to PR and first impression is everything. Nobody wants the audience getting the wrong idea but want them gaining more insight about Public Relation. As for myself I will try to tune in to see how the show grow on me and get more insight about the crisis management of PR.
    -Randalla Lawrence

  51. Hye Kye

    I wasn’t even aware about this show until you brought it up in class. I think it’s something I’ll be interested in though, so I’m willing to watch. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it from others. It is definitely nice to be able to see something different and unique. I’m anxious to see it.

  52. I saw a commercial for the show almost immediately after reading this post. I hadn’t previously heard much about it. Being that television plays a major role in the publics opinion, and how the public views certain fields (in this case, PR), I think that this show will do a good job in portraying what it’s like in the real world of public relations. It’s very refreshing to see a show about crisis management and public relations that is not all about working with the celebrities and living in the spotlight. It seems to me that the new show Scandal will show more important aspects of the PR field such as the amount of research put into the work. Now that I know a little bit about the show, I will begin watching and keeping up with the season. I hope that this new show will be successful in informing people what’s really happening in the world of PR, instead of only seeing the side of PR that Samantha Jones portrays in Sex and the City. I am also hoping for the opinions of those outside of the PR field will eventually shift from a more negative to positive once they see that public relations is much more than red carpet events, and crisis management with unnecessary drama.

  53. I have not watched this show, but after the classroom discussion and watching the trailer I have already set it on auto recording and I am so excited to watch this show. Personally I love shows/movies that have action and tension building and how people under pressure make brilliant moves to resolve them, and this show exactly seems to be that. I believe this show will give a whole new outlook for students who are considering PR as a major and general audience on a new side of PR, hopefully away for the publicist aspect. I do believe this is the first time this aspect (crisis management) will be portraying via a television show. TV definitely has a much higher impact on people, and because of this show I believe when people visually see something they will truly understand the concept and appreciate the hard work that person in the PR field puts. The only cons I can think from watching the trailer is that, in show that the main character breaks all the rules in order to do her job and this might portray that PR practitioners will go to any extant to convince the media and people, and to influence them.

    -Dhara Shah

  54. I have not yet watched the show but have heard many good things! I actually just recently saw a commercial for the episode just the other night. When I saw you had blogged about it, I wanted to comment almost instantly. Although I have not seen the full episode, I did do my research on what the show is about. I watched that minute and a half youtube preview and was immediately intrigued. I got the idea that the main character, Olivia Pope, is superior. It seems her roll in the show is almost immortal and that she can never not get a project finished. The show looks rather interesting and I can’t wait to start watching. I can see how anyone being a PR major could get hooked to this show. I think its fascinating that they are coming out with a show like this that shows PR in a different light—from a realistic light. And although it can’t all be realistic it shows the angles of a PR person from something we are not used to seeing in Hollywood. Because of that, I find it intriguing and creative. I can’t wait to get into it.

  55. I have not watched the show, but I definitely will start watching it now. I’m very excited that PR is getting a show that is not all about the glam and the money, because that is not always the case. People need to know that there is more to public relations than planning events and making connections with important people. I understand that Hollywood will make some things more extreme than they usually are in real life, but that is for the sake of saving time in the show, I’m sure. I hope people will gather a new understanding of what public relations is all about and know there is more to what happens on the shows.

  56. I watched the show and I absolutely LOVED it!! I find it so refreshing. I researched the inspiration behind Olivia Pope and I was so inspired by Judy Smith. She is notorious for crisis management. I feel like anyone interested in crisis management could learn something from this show. Whether its how to handle a client or what information to go after, its a show that every one interested in PR should watch. The con of the show for me was how exaggerated everything was. For me, it was unrealistic for them to get everything done in 24 hours and there measures of getting information: like bribing the security guard, Abby blackmailing the cop to get into the crime scene. It was just extreme, but I get that its all for television. I will continue to watch and I am so excited that PR is finally getting a show centered around it.

    • I watched the trailer and now I am hooked. This show is something that is refreshing to the ABC line up. I am very interesting in crisis management so this show was just for me. I loved that they picked Kerry Washington to play Olivia Pope. She is a great actress and the perfect fit for the show. The show does seem a bit exaggerated like Kelly said above and the fact that they only have 24 hours to get everything accomplished seems a bit unreal. But on the other note I will watch it and tell my friends about it.

    • I have never watched this show but from what im seeing now this looks like something that i would be totally interested in . i appreciate the efforts of this show too depict Public Relations in a different light. This show shoes Public Relations a little bit close to its true form,which is not just party planning and event hosting. I appreciate the fact that it gives the public a diffrent view of what they normally hear and think Public Relations is.