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February 25, 2010

SPINdustry: Viewer Discretion Is Advised

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Guest post by (Co-moderator of #ENTPRCHAT Tuesdays at 8pm!)

SPINdustry: Viewer Discretion Is Advised

A few days ago, E! premiered SPINdustry, a “reality” show that was supposed to show life as an entertainment PR professional. I have a

Dizzy Devil. Get it? Spin? Dizzy?

background in entertainment and sports public relations so I was excited to watch it.

When SPINdustry was first publicized, it seemed more like a documentary than reality show. After it aired, I felt punk’d. I wanted to look in my closet to see if Ashton Kutcher was recording my reaction.

I was disappointed. The show fed off of the public’s negative perception of PR.

When I tell people what I do, the majority claim to know what it is before I go into detail.

“So, you just plan events, right?”

“Ugh. You have it easy. You get to be around celebrities all day.”

“You don’t have to tell me. You spin. Aren’t you called a flack?”

It’s annoying. I take pride in my job and know it’s much more to it than the average person can explain. This is where my problem with the show’s producers lie. Those who didn’t have a correct understanding of the profession may have watched SPINdustry and think they have all PR professionals figured out.

Public relations is not synonymous with spin. In PR, “spin” has a negative connotation. It implies that those working in the PR industry use deceptive and manipulative tactics to win over a public or change opinions. This isn’t true.

The Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as the process of “[helping] an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” It’s about managing the communication between a client and its publics, which involves strategic planning and using a variety of mediums to reach out to these audiences.

SPINdustry neglected to show any of this.

It seemed to focus on inner drama within Command PR, including what appeared to be a scripted “pitch” to former Spice Girl Melanie Brown (Mel B) and chastising an employee for an incorrect food order.

My experience in entertainment and sports PR include interning for Universal Pictures, serving as publicist for a former NFL player and planning events for LeBron James’ charitable foundation. Unless I fell, bumped my head and momentarily lost consciousness, I can’t recall ever satisfying media by giving them candy, begging Chris Paul for an autograph or asking Nick Cannon to be the star in his next show. Although I was a fan of the celebrities I worked with, my professionalism came first. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I wanted scream or wish I had eight clones. I’d go hours without eating and spend 15 minutes looking for my glasses only to realize I was wearing them. Why? Because I was extremely focused and didn’t have time to do anything else. This isn’t glamorous but it’s real-life.

I’m not going to justify SPINdustry’s depiction of PR by saying it’s for entertainment. There’s a way to be entertaining while simultaneously educating your audience. It may not be easy, but it can be done. Bravo’s Kell on Earth, featuring fashion PR guru Kelly Cutrone, is a great example.

Are viewers overreacting? Or did SPINdustry poorly portray the entertainment PR field?

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  • Great post! I agree with everything mentioned here. I watched two minutes of the first episode and wish I could get those two minutes back. What professional stops a meeting to tell a client that they are their biggest fan?! When I first heard about the show, I knew this show was just going to be full of crap and help reinforce the stereotype that is already attached to the PR industry. Looks like I was right.
  • Shenetta
    I have to agree, that show was awful and extremely inaccurate. Jonathan and Simon want to be celebrities themselves for having a trashy reality show, just like their "client" Kim Kardashian. And who gets undressed in front of people in the middle of an office?!

    I could go on and on, I watched the show twice to make sure I wasn't missing anything and because I couldn't look past Jonathan's feathered hair the first time around :) Great blog post.
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