Fictional Portrayal vs. the Reality of Public Relations

By Andrea Annal

Courtesy of Google images
Courtesy of Google images

If I had been asked a semester ago what the “public” in public relations meant, I would have said it meant the general public. I know now that is not necessarily the case. A public can be broad, but it can be much narrower. Enrolling in Intro to Public Relations and joining PRSSA expanded my view of the field.  Prior to this semester, I was not exactly sure what public relations practitioners do.

Television and movies tell us people working in public relations plan parties and spin news topics whatever way necessary. Mad Men provides a little insight, but it mostly deals with advertising, as well as the outdated two-way asymmetric model of public relations. If Samantha Jones from Sex and the City is one of few role models available, then I am out of luck to learn from example. Of the episodes I have seen, Jones is never at work, and always glued to a guy or a cosmopolitan. Yet, she can still afford these luxuries of a Manhattan lifestyle. It seems as if the writers of the show were in the same boat as me: “I’m not sure what public relations is, but let’s make it this character’s career. We’ll show her planning parties and advancing her actor boyfriend’s career.”  Of course, I would not necessarily expect a show whose only focus is the love lives to really delve into the ladies’ careers. Luckily, I can take classes and join organizations to gain experience in this field. Additionally, this exposes me to a variety of real life role models.

Courtesy of Google images
Courtesy of Google images

On the show, Samantha is a smooth talker, like other public relations practitioner portrayals, but is she a smooth writer? I learned in the last month and a half that the ability to write is everything in public relations. Sure, working in the field of public relations will involve event planning, but one needs to write the media release and details about that event to make it happen successfully.

From the guest speakers at PRSSA meetings to the subject of my interview project for Professor Bartoo’s class, the ability to tell a story and to write, clear and to the point, is crucial. I always considered myself a decent writer. The success I had in high school English courses almost swayed me to enroll as an English major. In the end, Communication seemed more suitable due to my love of television, movies, and other forms of mass media. It now seems I may have found my niche: public relations. With more experience, I can become the type of writer able to fit in as public relations practitioner.

In an ideal world, I would love to work in the public relations department for NBC in New York City. Maybe with such a position, I could convince someone to write a television show with a more accurate depiction of public relations. I even could pull a Tina Fey and write my own show fictionalizing my job with NBC.

Andrea Annal, a Delaware native, is a sophomore communication interest major with minors in Journalism and Women’s Studies at the University of Delaware. She is a new PRSSA member this semester and has written for The Review in the past. 

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