PR Lessons We Can Learn From TV Shows

by | Apr 30, 2024 | Public Relations

I’m a firm believer that you can learn something from just about every situation in life. Whether it’s a personal, professional or general life lesson, embracing the absurdity and drawing lessons from life’s unpredictability makes the world go round. So next time you’re settling in to watch your favorite TV show, you may be surprised at the unexpected, subtle lessons you can learn from even the silliest character.

Did someone say Phil Dunphy? After all, as Phil says, “When life gives you lemonade, make lemons. Life will be all like, what?!” Phil’s spin on a common saying teaches us to remember to have fun, even when life flips things around a bit. Check out a few of my favorite TV characters and the PR lessons we can learn from them below!

TV Show: Schitt’s Creek 

Lesson: Being creative when things don’t go as planned.

Personalities that thrive in PR are usually people who are bubbly, outgoing and creative, and what TV character comes to mind with those characteristics? Alexis Rose from “Schitt’s Creek”!

We can learn a lot from Alexis’s ability to be quick on her feet and think outside the box. When she takes over as her mother’s publicist, she is tasked with setting up Moira’s red carpet entrance for the premiere of one of her “The Crows Have Eyes” films. Following along in Moira’s flair for the dramatic, Alexis releases crows as Moira walks the red carpet, and they start attacking everyone in the crowd. Since Alexis conducted fantastic strategic and local outreach, all of the town’s media were there and captured this horrifying yet somewhat hilarious event. The Rose family later finds out one of the news clips has gone viral and has over 32,000 views – YIKES. Just like we would suggest, Alexis addresses this virality head-on and sets up an interview with Moira the next morning on a national morning show, at which time the viral video then had 2 million views.

Then in a way we would NOT suggest, Alexis embellishes quite a bit and has Moira play this off as a PR stunt. It miraculously and shockingly works, and Moira is launched into stardom (again) and Alexis is fielding offers from prestigious NYC PR agencies.

The PR lesson here is not to embellish or try to cover it up when things go wrong but to face the problem head-on and be creative, but respectful, in your response. Most times, trying to cover things up will only make it worse. When the truth eventually comes out, like it always does, it will lead people to question your credibility and whether or not you are being honest when addressing things in the future. Alexis Rose might have been able to pull it off, and that’s as unexpected as her somehow pulling this dance off. 


TV Show: Scandal

Lesson: It’s PR, not the ER (literally).

A saying that’s often uttered in our hallowed office halls is “It’s PR, not the ER.” In theory, “Scandal”’s Olivia Pope and her merry band of thieves (and hackers and “fixers”) adhere to this ideal, but more often than not, they end up addressing their client’s crises with swift, but illegal, action.

One non-negotiable Olivia has for her staff and clients is to always stay calm. As Olivia herself says, “You can’t change the choice you made. All you can do is not let it ruin you.” In other (less dramatic) words, you can’t change what happened – whether that’s a flubbed interview, a product recall, or a scandal (ba dum tsss, I had to) – but you can decide how to respond. Panicking and giving a rash response, or not addressing the issue at all, will only create more unnecessary stress. Stay calm, call up your friendly neighborhood PR agency contact, and work together to craft a well-thought-out, appropriate response.

While we would all love Olivia Pope & Associates to handle our crisis communication, Olivia and her team only exist in Shondaland. Here in the real world, you can work with us at Dittoe PR! Our team is highly skilled in effective crisis communication, whether that’s drafting holding statements or building a crisis communication handbook specifically for your company and its needs. We’ll help make sure it’s handled – in a legal way.


TV Show: Parks & Recreation

Lesson: Build relationships with the people, businesses and media in your community. 

Leslie Knope is many things: a lover of waffles, a Li’l Sebastian superfan, and a person who doesn’t know a stranger in her small Pawnee community. (Bonus points for being in Indiana, even if it is fictional.)

As Deputy Director of the Parks and Recreation Department, Leslie takes her role and responsibility for community outreach seriously in new, outrageous and sweet ways every day. Leslie looks forward to public forums where she gets to hear from her fellow Pawneeans, even if they desperately try to convince her to put Twilight into the town time capsule (#iykyk). She invests her time and energy into projects and initiatives her community values, like turning pits into parks and setting up a Freddy Spaghetti children’s concert at the aforementioned pit-turned-park.

Leslie is a prime example of the kind of relationship builder we want to help our clients become in their own communities. Dittoe PR specializes in local, regional and national media relations; getting your story out to the right people; and securing consistent, impactful and positive coverage for you and your company.

I should’ve known I’d end up in PR when I had a little DIY Leslie Knope moment and interned for my local Parks & Recreation Department one summer. (I’m serious – take a look at my LinkedIn.)


TV Show: Modern Family 

Lesson: Phil’s-osophy: You can tell a lot about someone from their biography – Research!

Phil Dunphy is best known as the eccentric but caring dad of the Dunphy family in the beloved sitcom series “Moden Family.” When the oldest Dunphy child, Haley, heads off for college, Phil gifts her a book full of his best life lessons and advice aptly named “Phil’s-osophy.” This book (which you can actually buy on Amazon) embarrasses Haley when Phil first gives it to her, but as she reads through it on her first night at college, she smiles thinking of all of the advice her goofy dad has given her over the years.

From the witty, “Watch a sunrise at least once a day” to the punny and heartfelt, “Never be afraid to reach for the stars, because even if you fall, you’ll always be wearing a parentchute™,” Phil gives some great advice that we can apply to public relations!

One that seems simple, “You can tell a lot about someone from their biography,” is an important reminder to PR Pros to do their research. Dittoe PR works hard to secure impactful client coverage, and one of the ways we do that is through targeted, in-depth research on publications, writers and journalists. By taking the time to learn what a reporter’s beat is, what they’ve written about recently, and their interests, you have a much higher chance of response and potential coverage.

You don’t want to do blind outreach without researching first; for example, a meteorologist is probably not going to be interested in covering your client’s grand opening. Utilizing the tools you have at hand (and the expert PR Professionals you know) can ensure you aren’t wasting your time or the time of the reporters you’re reaching out to. 


TV Show: New Girl 

Lesson: It’s never too late to keep learning.

A true classic and a fan-favorite sitcom that I have watched at least 12 times through, we can’t end this blog without a shoutout to “New Girl”! The series follows a newly single, very quirky Jess Day navigating adulthood with her three roommates, Winston, Nick and Schmidt, along with her best friend, Cece. While most episodes are filled with wild storylines and hilarious mispronunciations from Schmidt, taking a deeper look at how the characters evolve throughout the series shows the lessons we can learn from this fun-filled group.

Jess goes through a variety of jobs throughout the series and has a stint as a creative writing teacher for adult learners. While her roommates laugh at the idea of Jess teaching adults, Jess says it’s inspiring to teach people who want to learn and want to go back to school. As PR Pros, it’s part of our job to stay informed about new happenings in our client’s industries and in the latest advancements in PR.

Whether this is your first year working in PR or your fifteenth, there are always opportunities to continue learning and to further your professional growth. Just like the relationship between Jess and her students, where both understand that they can learn from each other’s different life experiences, we can apply this thinking to our relationships with coworkers, clients, media and more! Being a lifelong learner only sets you up for success, so always approach situations with the mentality and openness that you’ll learn something new. 


Of course TV is an entertaining pastime, but it can also teach us a thing or two while we’re watching. Public relations is an industry where you learn a lot by doing, and here at Dittoe PR, we ensure our team is constantly learning from each other, our clients and our media contacts.

Interested in seeing how Dittoe PR can help with your organization’s communications? Check out our full list of services here or read about the impactful campaigns, growth and milestones we’ve secured for our clients here.

Dittoe PR

Dittoe PR is a nationally recognized public relations and social media management agency.

Our Latest Posts