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In the thick of mad men today?

TV all PRs should be watching

Blog date



Lisa Gibson
Associate Director

Has anyone else been enjoying the new series of W1A? I’ve loved it and was sad to see it end last night. Good writing, brilliant acting and characters we all recognise. Oh yes, I have a deep respect for Siobhan Sharpe, the fictional PR consultant who has the good fortune to have the BBC on her client list. She talks too much without ever really saying anything, has barely any self-awareness and only ever gives credence to her own ideas. She is a weekly reminder of everything a PR person shouldn’t be, but could so easily become.

W1A has got me thinking. For all the books, blogs and conferences out there – we can learn quite a lot about our industry from sitting at home watching telly can’t we? Hurrah! What other TV shows should be on the required reading list for PR people, or those wanting to get in to the industry? Aside from W1A here are four of my favourites – I’m sure there are loads of others out there though, so let us know you think

1. The Day Today

Yes, it’s a few years old now, but this is still a brilliantly observed, very relevant commentary on the state of the news industry, the way news is constructed, the importance (or lack of) news values, and, incidentally, the first time Alan Partridge graced our TV screens. The gleeful way that Chris Morris’ news presenter declares war, and the speed with which it is branded up in the studio is satire at its best.

2. Mad Men

Of course. Who hasn’t resorted to a Don Draper quote meme at some point in their career Powerpoints to date? In truth I’ve never stormed out of a client meeting because they didn’t like my creative idea, but dear Lord I wish I had the charisma for people to think that I just might. If you never watch anything else, watch how Draper pitches the ‘Carousel’ idea to the client at Kodak. Yes it was the 60s (and clearly it’s not actually true), but we can all learn something from this sublime piece of storytelling.

3. The Thick of It

Of course, politics isn’t really like this, is it. Is it? The Thick of It has contributed several words and phrases to our national lexicon (‘omnishambles’, anyone?) and sweary press officer Malcolm Tucker has become famous for his special approach to media relations. Now, I’m not advocating a Tucker-like style to prospective PR professionals, but I do sometimes wonder if we PR people have become a little too beholden to our media contacts? Do we really hold journalists to account if they cancel a media interview at no notice, or fail to turn up to an event with no explanation? I just think that sometimes, “what would Tucker do?” could be a useful thought process. You can get some inspiration here.

4. The West Wing

There would have been no The Thick of it without The West Wing. Aaron Sorkin’s masterpiece of long-form storytelling about a fictional White House administration should be required viewing for anyone with a pulse, not just those wanting to make it in the world of PR. That said, if you’re eyeing a future in comms then you can learn most of the skills you’ll ever need from White House Press Secretary CJ Cregg (played by the glorious Allison Janney). From press conferences to story placement, from crisis-management to “putting out the trash”, the glass-ceiling-smashing CJ is an unbeatable role-model. You want proof? Check out “the jackal” and “egg balancing”.

So that’s all good then. I’ll leave you with a reminder of absolutely the best way to host a brainstorm to come up with that killer creative idea. Thanks again for everything Siobhan.

And as they definitely really said in New York in the 60s, good luck at your next meeting.

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