There’s a new hit show on MTV I’ve become slightly obsessed with. The City follows the dramatic life of a young woman in New York. The reason for my new found obsession – this girl happens to work in public relations for one of the hottest New York designers, Diane Von Furstenberg.
Whitney Port and Olivia Palermo seem able to run the public relations department, work at the fashion shows, network – and still have time to spend time each day shopping and creating drama while wearing 9 inch heels and having perfect hair.
Now, I am not being gullible – this show has some scenes added for dramatic effect but the programme does depict the glamorous side of Public Relations – with none of the stress and hard work that needs to be put in to make a campaign successful.
Doing my work placement in an award winning Public Relations agency, I have seen first hand the tension in the air when working against a deadline and the pressure is on.
Whereas on The City there seems to be no planning or research – just constant events. Aren’t events usually the final tiny part of a carefully put together campaign?
The City is not the only television show that has public relations as a high flying, glamorous career.
Absolutely Fabulous showed Eddy as the owner of a Public Relations firm who seemed to spend her time jetting off on holiday and drinking champagne at 11 o’clock with her plastic surgery obsessed friend. UKTV Gold puts it best- “if you thought PR was all about champers, parties and free lunches – err…you’d be right. Well if Ab Fab is anything to go by”.
The most famous public relations character on TV drama – and the person who first pops into everyone’s head – is Samantha Jones from Sex and the City. This public relations executive manages to bag the client, seal the deal and still be first in line for a new pair of Manolos while and Gucci and Vivienne Westwood seem to be her office uniform.
Obviously The City would not be a hit show if it showed Whitney doing the tedious jobs like creating mailing lists and doing research but why is it that public relations is portrayed as so sexy? Can the public relations industry live up to this glamorous representation?
Laura Silcock from PR and copywriting consultancy Room 53 thinks not. ‘No, I wouldn’t describe my job as glamorous. There are certainly aspects of the job that can be glamorous and there are definitely far less enjoyable ways to earn a living, but on a day to day basis it isn’t glamorous for me.
‘Much of PR is a sales job really – I spend a lot of my time on the phone to journalists (some of whom can be quite rude) pitching story ideas. That may not be true for other PR people who work in different industries or with different clients. I’m sure some PR people lead very glamorous working lives! But I think TV does tend to glamorise PR, but only in the same way that it glamorises other professions too.
‘Showing someone spending hours on the phone trying to secure coverage for the launch of a new yoghurt wouldn’t make great TV. Showing someone flouncing about at a swanky party wearing a gorgeous dress and looking authoritative with a clipboard makes for more exciting viewing.’
There are very glamorous and rewarding parts to working in public relations but there is no way it is all about champagne receptions and meeting with clients in fancy restaurants. The first name that comes in to the head of the general public when thinking about PR is Max Clifford.
The PR guru seems partly responsible for the connection of PR and celebrity – working with the likes of Kerry Katona and Jade Goody and handling their press, mixing at all the showbiz parties, and with his name mentioned seemingly every week in the glossy magazines.
David Child , account director at Quest PR explains why he thinks PR is shown to be a life of glitz and glamour: ‘The bits of PR that get shown on television are glamorous in the main – partly because most jobs that are on TV appear more glamorous (who wants to watch people doing boring jobs!).
Also, PR is pretty complicated to most people whereas just showing party invites, guest lists at clubs, and celebrity management is closer to most people’s general understanding of how the industry works.
‘[Before I started working in PR] I suppose my perceptions were quite limited to what I’d heard, seen and read so, yes, I think I did see it as more glamorous than it is. It’s still a really interesting – and often exciting – job, but rarely does it become glamorous.’
It may be the fact that it’s such a female-orientated occupation and that is how it is portrayed in real life. Telling someone you are doing a public relations degree (after you have explained exactly what public relations is) usually brings an ‘oooooh’ or an ‘aaaahh’.
People who work in public relations need to be confident, charming, intelligent and quick witted. That’s because this is the nature of the job; if you’re trying to build reputations you can’t be shy and retiring. It is also one of the only areas in business that is dominated by females so it’s perfect for high achievers who want a rewarding and high pressure career but don’t want to lose their femininity.
There is nothing wrong with glamorising the public relations industry but it would seem that making it out to be a fun and carefree job undermines the hard work, tears and tantrums that go into making a successful campaign.
Photo shows Glam on the Rocks party by Kid Paparazzi (via Flickr)