XOXO, PR Girl

Serena at her new job

Photo Credit: Giovanni Rufino / The CW © 2009 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Spotted, Tyra Banks attempting to play an actress getting ready for her movie premier with a few secrets being held by her publicist. 

Gossip Girl is one of my guilty pleasures (other than bourbon and Kentucky sports,) and this week’s episode was anything but settling. 

*Spoiler Alert* So here’s the gist on the PR prospective, Serena isn’t going to Brown and wants to prove her worth by getting a job.  She happened into a publicist’s job because she knew how to escape from the paparazzi through a back entrance of a restaurant. 

After Serena found her “dream job,” the publicist finds out Tyra’s character’s main scene is cut from the movie but refuses to prep her so she can cause drama on-site and in front of the cameras.  This causes a conflicted Serena to not tell Tyra and let her go on with the drama, shocker I know.  The publicists then reveals how her plot won and how this news will get better media coverage and then fires Serena.  Later on Serena gets her job back thanks to Tyra (how many times has a client fought for your job after you lied to them,) and all the world is happy, for now. 

Let me break this down and bring into reality:

  • Socialite girl has never worked a day in her life and gets a job as a publicist on the spot because she knows how to escape a restaurant.
  • Prior to movie premier said socialite girl turned publicist finds out from new boss her client is cut from her biggest scene in the movie that her client hasn’t seen and won’t until the premier.
  • Socialite girl is told to lie to client/ actor about the news because it would “devastate” them.
  • Client finds out the hard way and is upset in front of all cameras and media.
  • Publicist is happy because her client is now going to be in all gossip magazines and then fires socialite girl.
  • Client/ actor demands for publicists to re-hire socialite girl despite both of them lying to her.
  • Everyone is rewarded for lying to client.

First of all, when did it become so easy to obtain such a high-profile position? Why do they insinuate the only thing a publicist does is making sure her client looks pretty and causes drama? There is so much more to the industry than paparazzi.  The episode also insinuated all PR people are about the spin, as we have had numerous posts on this topic alone (Yea…no, I don’t do that ,Yea, I do that  and Drop the Salesman Mentality.)

One of the biggest faux pas in the story line is the lying to a client.  No matter what industry you are in, is fibbing justified because you think it is better for the client? Little white lies can only amount to future trouble and your main focus should be building the relationship with the client instead of putting up little road blocks or foggy areas along the way.   Honesty will progress your relationship even if the timing doesn’t seem right.  I am confident Tyra’s character would have still shown up for her movie premier since she was in a few scenes, but would have been more prepared and poised for tough questions to transition the message to a relevant topic. 

In the world of Social Media, there is little room for error and could cause a major backlash on your client or brand.  We tweet, write, blog, and talk amongst peers about our industry, but we are forgetting about the general public. 

Therefore PR Industry, I challenge you to tell at least one new person a remarkable and unique experience or work item (outside of celebrities and movie premiers) that you accomplished in PR today!
Now run…
XOXO,
PR Girl

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  • http://twitter.com/jessisjuicy Jess Greco

    I love when TV actually provides us with some value, lessons learned, topics for discussion etc. (I feel like most of the time I'm watching useless junk..however most of the time I also don't care :) ).

    I don't watch Gossip Girl- I know, shocker- but you did a great job of breaking it down for me and the other non-watchers. I definitely think there are some important lessons to take away from this.

    And why is PR the new trendy, hott industry? Well actually, I guess we can reference your former post on this :)

  • heatherdueitt

    Thanks Jess for the comments. I'm more shocked that you are not a true Gossip Girl fan. Why is PR the black for TV show? Hmm.

  • PatrickDixon

    Allow me to begin by stating that I don't watch this kind of trashy television (preparing to be slapped, kicked and/or punched by PR girls and Gossip Girls fans alike on my next visit to NYC).

    That having been said, what struck me about this post is that television writers (crappy television writers) believe PR is all about spin and lying. So PR folks, what is the point of lying to your client or even a journalist? What happens to your career once your credibility is lost?

    I've seen PR folks lie to both clients and journalists. In each case they are over promising. I've been in meeting where I've heard “We'll get you on the front page above the fold of The Wall Street Journal within three months.” Really? Are we going to advise you to get involved in some scandal or perhaps throw your board members off the roof? That's the only way you can guarantee that coverage.

    I've also heard PR folks promise things to journalists they know they can't deliver. “XX company makes this little chip that helps the iPhone do something…I can get Steve Jobs on the phone for an interview.” Um…no you can't.

    What does lying accomplish? You'll be fired by your clients and lose relationships with influential journalists. Just don't do it.

  • heatherdueitt

    Thanks Patrick! No worries, I won't slap you for not liking my mindless guilty pleasures. :)

    You provided some wonderful examples that unfortunately we see all too often in our industry. So back to my challenge, we need to help teach the old and new that lying and spins will only come back to haunt you. Yes, a client loves hearing they will get a coveted hit on the WSJ above the fold, but you are only setting yourself up for failure.

    I am always a fan of this motto: “Under promise, over deliver.”

    Thanks again Patrick.

  • keithtrivitt

    I actually ended up watching this episode with my girlfriend (Patrick, I know, it was not enjoyable for me), and I was royally pissed/insulted when I saw that crap come on where she a) immediately gets a job for being well known in the paparazzi, and b) she is pushed to do things that I think all of us cringe at whenever we see it happen in real life in the PR world.

    I think that as a community, we PR pros should be very upset that our business is portrayed in this way. Sure, there are some who indulge in these kinds of dishonest practices and deliberately lie to their clients for their own benefit.

    But that is (hopefully) a very small majority, and frankly, it happens in almost every business. I would like to think that many – if not most -of us in PR work extremely hard to portray to the media and our clients the reality and truth of every situation, and do not partake in dishonest practices just to prove a point, embarrass someone (as in the case of the Gossip Girl episode) or for our own benefit.

    I would really like for our industry to rise above these nasty portrayls that seem to pop up in pop culture and TV from time to time. It's like the New York Times article that came out a couple of months ago (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/business/05pr…) about the PR business in Silicon Valley. It portrays PR people as pushovers who are apt to do anything and everything a client wants just to keep them happy. That isn't really our job, in my opinion, and to portray an entire industry as that, as well as on Gossip Girl, is fundamentally not true.

    It is definitely time all of us in PR work to help our business rise above these types of portrayals and actually begin to educate the public on what we do, how we do it and the honesty and integrity I believe we all truly try to produce in our work, each and every day.

  • hdueitt

    Thank you Keith for the comment and well said. We should do PR on PR, especially since we are the pros in real life.

  • http://twitter.com/cheelizaga Cheryl Elizaga

    I am a big Gossip Girl fan. I love watching young adults plow their way through New York. I love how attractive each of them are, as well, as if us “normal” people look that good, haha!

    That being said, I remember watching this episode and getting a bad taste in my mouth about the way the writers portrayed being a publicist. Then again, I've always separated “publicity” and “public relations” in my mind. To me, publicity is meant for Hollywood, The Hills, Gossip Girl, etc. and public relations is the classy version for true professionals. Still, I couldn't help but be upset by the stereotype of PR that sticks in the media.

    You're right – PR is a lot more than making your client look good and causing drama to create coverage. However, the one positive I drew from this episode was Serena's relationship with Tyra Banks' character (I actually happen to like Tyra; her shenanigans and craziness are what make me like her even more! Hollywood starlets and the like are not as outspoken as she is. The well-trained ones barely show personality!). Tyra trusted Serena because she was honest. Tyra could tell Serena was looking out for her as a person, not just as a business transaction. True, Serena lied to Tyra in the first place, but in the end she corrected her mistake. I don't think we can punish her too harshly for fibbing in the beginning (although I don't necessarily agree); she was honest in the end at the risk of losing her job. She started, confused, and ended with integrity.

    We all make mistakes but the best mistakes are those we learn from. I think that gaining the trust of our clients is one of the most important things we can do as PR people. After all, what is any relationship without trust?

  • http://twitter.com/cheelizaga Cheryl Elizaga

    I am a big Gossip Girl fan. I love watching young adults plow their way through New York. I love how attractive each of them are, as well, as if us “normal” people look that good, haha!

    That being said, I remember watching this episode and getting a bad taste in my mouth about the way the writers portrayed being a publicist. Then again, I've always separated “publicity” and “public relations” in my mind. To me, publicity is meant for Hollywood, The Hills, Gossip Girl, etc. and public relations is the classy version for true professionals. Still, I couldn't help but be upset by the stereotype of PR that sticks in the media.

    You're right – PR is a lot more than making your client look good and causing drama to create coverage. However, the one positive I drew from this episode was Serena's relationship with Tyra Banks' character (I actually happen to like Tyra; her shenanigans and craziness are what make me like her even more! Hollywood starlets and the like are not as outspoken as she is. The well-trained ones barely show personality!). Tyra trusted Serena because she was honest. Tyra could tell Serena was looking out for her as a person, not just as a business transaction. True, Serena lied to Tyra in the first place, but in the end she corrected her mistake. I don't think we can punish her too harshly for fibbing in the beginning (although I don't necessarily agree); she was honest in the end at the risk of losing her job. She started, confused, and ended with integrity.

    We all make mistakes but the best mistakes are those we learn from. I think that gaining the trust of our clients is one of the most important things we can do as PR people. After all, what is any relationship without trust?

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