July 11, 2012
Time for PR to Have its Own Show
Posted on the prSPEAK blog on June 9th by Mike O'Connell
The other day, I got to thinking about the ad industry’s sudden wave of popularity on TV (Mad Men, The Pitch) and got a little jealous. What about PR? Shouldn’t our industry get a shot on the small screen?
Somebody should do something about it. If I had any sway in Hollywood, I’d propose a series that would take people through all the action, suspense, excitement, heartache, conflict, resolution and error messages we PR folk encounter on a daily basis. Here’s the twist. The Agency would feature not only the brightest stars of the current TV landscape; each of the stars would appear fully in character.
It would be a huge ensemble cast. Stars wouldn’t have to appear every week. If key players weren’t on one week, the show could easily explain it away – that they’re a) working from home, b) heads down on a new biz pitch, or c) in Vegas at a trade show.
Who would star in this masterpiece? We could choose whoever we want because everybody would demand to be a part of this. A show about PR? Who could resist?
Start with the character visitors to a PR firm see first – the receptionist/office manager, an all-purpose go-to person who basically has to manage personalities and trouble-shoot situations before they happen. We could go old-school with this position and install M*A*S*H*’s Radar O’Reilly (Gary Burghoff), but to keep it current we’ll take 30 Rock’s Kenneth (Jack McBrayer). He smiles all the time. Anyone who can keep the Tracy Morgan character’s ego in line would have no trouble taming an unruly PR staff.
Next, interns. We need vibrant, inquisitive young bucks who are clever and eager to learn. We have room for two, so let’s go with a sure thing and a wild card. Sure thing: Mannie (Rico Rodriguez) from Modern Family. He’s mature and wise beyond his years and he’d probably teach senior associates a thing or two about proper workplace decorum. Wild card: Bart Simpson. Hey, The Simpsons has been on the air for 23 years, and Bart’s still young. He may flub a few clips or inadvertently set fire to the kitchen, but if someone could just channel that potential …
We’ll need three junior associates. They should be young, aggressive go-getters, on the rise with energy and aspirations. Since our show is a comedy, and not a serious drama, we’re going to have some fun here. Bring in Kelly Osbourne, Raising Hope’s Jimmy Chance (Lucas Neff) and Jersey Shore’s JWoww. Kelly and Jimmy would need a little polishing, but you sense that they’re going to become fine pitchers someday. JWoww would be a handful. HR might have to re-explain the dress code and the proper use of language a few times. But team calls would never be boring.
We have room for four associates, and we’re going to make these positions count. We need earnest, well put-together individuals with tangible skills who just need a little experience. Start with New Girl’s Jess (Zooey Deschanel). I mean, who’s friendlier? What IT writer could resist a pitch from Jess? We could use geeks who know technology, so let’s go with Community’s Abed (Danny Pudi) and Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon (Jim Parsons). Wilfred’s Ryan (Elijah Wood) is sweet and persuasive, but he also has a diabolical side. And he’s a little crazy. Sign him up.
Senior associates provide the backbone of an agency’s pitching effort, so we need seasoned pros here. Mad Men’s Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) and Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman) are “A players” with transferable skills. If we bring them both in, they may even push each other. How I Met Your Mother’s Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) could talk the proverbial dog off a meat wagon, so he’s in. Our fourth SA? 24’s Jack Bauer. He’d get the top-tier business press hit – and it would take him less than a day. Count on it. Copy that!
For the account manager position, we have a head start. If you think Dirty Water TV co-host Kevin Flight would make a good AM, you’re right. He already is. He works here at PAN, a few desks down from me, so we’ll start with him. His AM colleagues on The Agency would include Glee cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), Breaking Bad’s Walter White (Bryan Cranston), and Modern Family’s Dunphys: Claire (Julie Bowen) and Phil (Ty Burrell). Different management styles, to be sure, but we could see each getting results out of their teams.
On the VP front, we’re looking for strong leaders with presence and clout. Friday Night Lights’ Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) could rouse his teams with updated versions of his pregame pep talks: “Clear eyes! Full hearts! Now, go and make an ed opp!” Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Susie Greene (Susie Essman) would scare her teams straight, and Parks & Recreation’s Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) would passionately try to convince the staff that PR is a big waste of time. We’d need a consumer VP, and who better than Martha Stewart? If she’s not available, we’ll raid one of the higher-ups at the Home Shopping Network. Not sure if Grey’s Anatomy’s McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) has the patience for PR life, but you’d want him pitching new business to female prospects.
VP of finance? If creativity is in the job description, Frank from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Danny Devito) has an endless supply of money-making schemes up his sleeve. VP of HR? You have to go with The Office’s Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein). Or Holly (Amy Ryan). One or the other.
Which leaves us with one job to fill: president. There’s no shortage of charismatic leaders who’d do just fine leading a PR firm. SNL’s “presidents” themselves should be considered: Obama (Fred Armisen), George W. Bush (Will Ferrell), Clinton (Darrell Hammond) and George H.W. Bush (Dana Carvey). Martin Sheen played President Bartlett on The West Wing. Dennis Haysbert played President Palmer on 24. Cheers’ Sam Malone (Ted Danson), Man vs. Food’s Adam Richman and House’s Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) all have that certain presidential aura. You could go with The Donald, who kinda sorta seemed to want to run for president a few years ago.
But the winner has to be someone who can command a room. Really command a room. Like Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini). Think the staff would have a problem with that? Didn’t think so.
Here at PAN, we have our own ensemble cast that contributes an enviable mix of inspiration, talent, camaraderie and comedy every day. Some of us may even see glimpses of ourselves in a Don Draper, Cameron Tucker, Chelsea Handler or Kelly Kapoor.
What would your TV PR staff look like?