'Flack': Does Anna Paquin's show portray the world of celebrity PR accurately? Here's what crisis management mogul Ronn Torossian thinks
'Flack' is set in the world of celebrity PR management. It portrays the lives of crisis managers and how they balance their professional lives with their personal lives
'Flack', which is currently being aired on Pop Tv every Thursday is a show set in the world of celebrity PR management and features Anna Paquin in the role of Robyn circumventing the complex world of scandal fixing. She is accompanied by colleagues Eve (Lydia Wilson) and Melody (Rebecca Benson) along with whom she helps celebrities rebrand. She also reassures them of minimal damage if a scandal does break out and pulls strings to get things done without thinking twice about the moral repercussions. In a conversation with MEA Worldwide (MEAWW), CEO of 5WPR and crisis management mogul Ronn Torossian, speaks about the real world of celebrity managing.
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On @wchannel 2nite in UK at 10pm on Sky 109 Virginmedia 125 Bt 311 Talktalk 311
Or @poptv 10/9pm in US
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Ronn doesn’t believe that the industry is portrayed accurately on TV and film, although there are some truths to what one sees in them. He says, "TV shows will often showcase the more glamorous aspects of the job (drinking, parties, networking, etc.). In reality, PR, even when dealing with celebrities, involves a host of more demanding (and not TV-friendly) tasks like spreadsheets, internal and external communication, drafting strategies, things like that."
He adds, "However, in 'Flack', I think that the main character, Robyn, has a pretty accurate role. Given that she works as a crisis PR strategist, her day to day is fast-paced and unpredictable. This part couldn't be truer. Working with high profile clients means that anything they do can go viral in an instant—so it’s safe to say my day can go a different direction at any moment depending on my clients’ needs. That said, public perception of the industry is fueled by pop culture portrayals that are unrepresentative of what real PR work entails. Consider, for example, the character Samantha in 'Sex And The City'. No remotely successful PR pro spends half the day shopping and eating lunch and the other half seducing the UPS deliveryman. PR is far from a glamorous profession (though it can entail plenty of drama)."
In the show, Robyn is seen regularly switching the direction of a scandal to benefit the image of her client. Is this burying a story to manipulate the narrative? Ronn disagrees. "I wouldn’t so much call it 'burying a story', but instead it's about changing and controlling the narrative. When it comes to saving a career following a public scandal, controlling the controversy is always my first priority. The person in question's reputation may never be fully restored in the public eye, but intense damage control can ultimately save their career. PR is what can make a drastic difference between a minor mishap and a career-halting nightmare," he explains.
Ronn also explains how in the age of social media, the protocols and rules of crisis communication have evolved. For instance, in one of 'Flack's episodes, Robyn tries to control the narrative of a white stand-up comedian making distasteful jokes about the transgender community. The video of his jokes leaks and results in the comedian drawing criticism for his jokes. She changes the narrative by fixing a deal between a journalist and a transgender comedian who accuses the man of being transphobic. So how does this work in real life?
Ronn explains, "With the proliferation of the internet and social media, news does not 'cycle' as much as it churns in a constant maelstrom of information, images and soundbites moving at lightning speeds and saturating audiences. That doesn’t mean there’s no hope. That just means you have to increase your responsiveness and targeted PR. In the age we live in, everything becomes known eventually, so it’s better to come out with a statement ASAP. When a crisis strikes, as it almost inevitably does for public figures, transparency and disclosure are key."
Robyn manages to solve all her client's problem with as minimal damage as possible. Does that always happen in real-life as well? Ronn says that while he hasn't handled a crisis that was hard to bounce back from, he recalls the 'Megyn Kelly incident'. Megyn, a popular television presenter had made a comment indicating it was okay to wear blackface as a Halloween costume resulting in backlash from the public.
"Megyn Kelly’s situation was too hard to bounce back from. She had too many 'strikes,' which is likely why she was run out so fast compared to some other public figures who have said worse things."
He adds, "Even after Megyn’s public, tearful apology, given her previous holiday-based racial commentary, people were very quick to make assumptions and cast aspersions."
Finally, speaking about what it means to be known as a 'flack', Ronn's nonchalant comment is, "According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the meaning is someone who 'provides publicity'. That said, it’s taken on pretty bad connotations and is perceived as a negative. People love to hate public relations professionals."