How an actual PR agency works: Comparing Keeley Jones Public Relations Firm in ‘Ted Lasso’ to the real world
As Richmonders, Ted Lasso’s AFC Richmond strikes a familiar chord. Rooting for the home team is easy, and the show’s main character, Ted Lasso, constantly reminds viewers to find the good in everyone –a mindset most Richmonders would be proud to support.
Aside from being a heartwarming story of an underdog soccer team vying for success in England’s Premier League, I’ve been intrigued by how the show portrays PR agency life through the lens of Keeley Jones Public Relations (KJPR).
Here are a few things you should know about how a PR agency actually works before dropping your current gig for a romanticized version of the industry.
PR is NOT all glitz and glam
The show often portrays Jones’ day-to-day responsibilities centered around coordinating photo shoots and providing emotional support to AFC Richmond’s owner, Rebecca. While coordinating creative shoots can fall under our role from time to time, it’s not an everyday occurrence.
Throughout the show, and in many TV shows, Jones is a PR star in her own right, front and center on TV commercials talking about sights and attractions to explore in Richmond. While we’re on the sidelines or in the background with our clients, reporters aren’t pointing the camera at our face when they go live.
Emotional support, on the other hand, is something we do provide. Hodges’ long-term client relationships stem from being an extension of their team, an attribute which often results in many last-minute phone calls and reassurance after a big press day.
Media training IS necessary in our industry
When Coach Beard, AFC Richmond’s assistant coach, is asked to fill in for Lasso at a press conference, his lack of preparation and talking points become an issue. As he rattles off a flurry of unrelated answers to the media’s questions, the team’s owner looks to Jones and asks, “Have you given Beard the talking points?” Anxiously, Jones shakes her head…Beard quickly turns the conversation away from his team’s performance and into a heated debatearound who the greatest guitar player is of all time. Safe to say, Beard didn’t score a PR win during that interview.
As PR professionals, it’s our job to help clients prepare spokespeople with talking points before media interviews. Often, we encourage clients to meet with us for prep sessions to talk through question topics and remember what subjects to avoid.
Reputation management IS a large part of our role
During the show, one of the star players, Sam Obisanya, is dismayed when he finds out AFC Richmond is sponsored by Dubai Air, an oil company exploiting his hometown. Obisanya tells the owner he can’t continue playing if the team continues its partnership.
If you’re thinking this sounds like an appropriate time for KJPR to swoop in and save the day, you’re right. Jones establishes a team’s new sponsor, a move that goes on to save the team and help both parties.
When clients face difficult situations, such as responding to employee incidents or communicating a crisis, we’re there every step of the way drafting key messages, internal communication and media responses.
Agency life is NOT a one-man show
One aspect of agency life that continues to be inaccurately displayed throughout the show is the team dynamic at KJPR’s office. Jones’ coworkers are socially inadept and are rarely shown collaborating. Most of the team members are written as cold, standoffish and oddly quiet.
PR is collaborative and most successful when team members work together to create the best concepts. Client teams at Hodges brainstorm new ideas together, discuss story angles and work across the agency to deliver the best services, using the strengths of all team members. To draw up an industry as stagnant as KJPR’s environment is a miss by the showrunners.
If you’re wondering what it’s really like, Hodges’ doors are always open.