Notes on Knope: What PR Pros Can Learn From TV’s Leading Ladies

April 25, 2018

As a PR expert, you likely find professional inspiration in many different places. For instance, you may feel inspired after sitting down with the CEO of a client’s company. Or perhaps you hear about a really outstanding creative campaign that inspires you to be more ballsy in your approach.

While both of the above examples have inspired me at moments in the past, I also often find inspiration outside of the typical PR bubble. For instance, pop culture offers a wealth of hidden nuggets of PR genius to those who are paying attention.

With that in mind, here are a few things I’ve picked up by applying a PR lens to the leading ladies of my favorite TV shows.

Annaliese Keating, ‘How to Get Away With Murder’

Through good times and bad times, Annaliese knows the importance of a solid team. Whether you’re facing a tough trial (and we all know she HAS), a product launch that isn’t getting any pickup, or a client company’s CEO caught up in a misconduct scandal, your team is going to have a lot to do with your odds of carrying the day.

Takeaway: Surround yourself with smart, trustworthy, hardworking people who you know will stand by you in moments of disaster and chaos.

Olivia Pope, ‘Scandal’

Olivia always trusts her gut when it comes to figuring out how to deal with a crisis. However, as we know from the show and our own lives, when you start from a place of willingness to lie, deceive, cover up and scapegoat, you’ll do nothing right when it comes to crisis communications–or any other communications field. Take a page out of her book and listen to your instincts, but also remain truthful.

Takeaway: If your client is dealing with a crisis and you have a gut feeling about how they should respond, pay attention to it—and don’t be afraid to speak up!

Peggy Olson, ‘Mad Men’

Peggy is ambitious and smart and never stops striving for the career that she wants. In the course of a few seasons, she works her way up from the bottom and catches the attention of her superiors, due largely to the fact that she isn’t afraid to take creative risks. Her trademark move is stepping out of her comfort zone to come up with new ideas that her clients love— making sure that her conniving male colleagues don’t pass her ideas off as their own.

Takeaway: Don’t be shy about getting creative—there are no bad ideas in brainstorming—and never let someone else steal credit for your great ideas.

Margaery Tyrell, ‘Game of Thrones’

Margaery recognizes the importance of adapting to the situation at hand. She’s already on to her third husband, but that doesn’t bring her down. (Ironically, her mother-in-law did, however.) Until her unfortunate and premature demise, she was continuously adjusting her plan and keeping her eye on the prize.

Takeaway: In our industry, client priorities are always shifting. It’s important to remain flexible and be able to successfully switch directions at a moment’s notice.

Meredith Grey, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Meredith has one of the most difficult jobs in the world—she holds the lives of others in her hands on a daily basis. However, she always remembers that work-life balance matters and lives by the motto “work hard, play hard.” After a long day, she makes it a point to leave work behind and to wind down with friends—often by means of tequila shots and dancing.

Takeaway: It’s crucial to psychologically “clock out” sometimes, celebrate your successes and treat yourself. Tequila and dancing are optional.

Leslie Knope, ‘Parks and Recreation’

Leslie is a champ, managing a workload fit for five people and never taking “no” for an answer—even though she hears “no” often. Sound familiar? (Ahem: pitching.) However, no matter what she’s faced with, she always stays positive.

Takeaway: PR can be stressful, but sometimes faking an optimistic outlook until you make it somewhere better is the key to pulling through a difficult moment.

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