Top PR films you should watch

Film, MediaHQ.com, Opinion, PR
May 2, 2019
by Laura McCormack

“You don’t know what it’s like to be me out here for you … Help me, help you” Tom Cruise, playing the rogue sports agent Jerry Maguire, begs of his only client, Cuba Gooding Jr, in the changing room of a gym. This is one of the most famous agent-client relationship scenes of all time. Arms spread and knees bent Jerry entreats the sports star to take his advice and finally, the two have an unexpected moment of symbiosis.

For anyone who works with clients on a regular basis, watching this washroom breakthrough scene might feel like a moment of catharsis. Viewers generally like to see aspects of their lives reflected back to them in film and TV, and allowing audiences to identify with characters on screen is an important step in garnering engagement.

But for PR professionals, catching a glimpse into how the industry is portrayed on the silver screen can be an unsatisfying endeavour. PR gets a bad rep on screen, PR professionals are often set up as spin doctors, the partisan opposition to objective journalists.

There are, however, moments in film when the contours of PR life are played out brilliantly. Here are our top films for PR professionals to watch:

Jerry Maguire

An obvious classic, Jerry Maguire epitomises the charisma many hope to achieve both personally and professionally. Known best for its iconic one-liners, the film resists the stereotypes usually given to PR professionals on screen. Jerry Maguire is a film that depicts the fast-paced nature of the industry, the need to cultivate strong personal relationships with clients and the vast potential for integrity within Public Relations.

The Candidate

The Candidate is a brilliant film for anyone eager to watch how the machinations of a political campaign unfold. Robert Redford stars as the son of a wealthy California governor who has been chosen by Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) to run for the senate. The screenplay was written by Jeremy Larner, who worked as a speechwriter for Eugene McCarthy during his presidential campaign. It follows the processes of political reconstruction that take place on the election trail, as Redford’s message is worked and reworked in order to appeal to voters. Ultimately, though, this film depicts an election specialist crafting a campaign around a young candidate with strong values.

Sweet Smell of Success

Released at a time when PR was still a burgeoning profession, the Sweet Smell of Success is a cinematic classic that portrays the fraught relationship between J.J. Hunsecker, a highly influential gossip columnist, and Sidney Falco, a freelance press agent. And while this film does nothing to shine a positive light on the slick agent Falco, the dynamic between the journalist and press agent provides the fuel for a compelling narrative built around interdependency and co-conspiracy.

The Social Network

The Social Network tells the story of Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook. The relationship between publicity, both positive and negative, and product is one of the lead tensions in the film. The film tells a business story that captures the connection between digital media and traditional PR.

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