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PR Lessons from Breaking Bad

PR Lessons from Breaking Bad
September 24, 2013

I may be a little slow to the whole Breaking Bad phenomenon that’s been sweeping the nation, just maybe. I’m currently on Season 2 while the rest of the world just finished watching the series finale. However, from the few episodes I’ve watched, I’ve picked up a number of public relations lessons.

So, I do plan to finish watching it and hope I will have more pr lessons to share when the time comes. Please do not post spoilers in the comments of this blog post! I’ve made it my life’s mission to avoid googling anything related in the hopes that I will still be surprised when I find out whether or not Walt survives this crazy, cracked-out train ride that is Breaking Bad.

1. Be careful who you trust

In season 2, Badger mistakenly believes an undercover police officer when he tells him he’s not a cop and then proceeds to try to sell him meth and gets arrested. What does this tell us? Even if you feel like you can trust an outsider with insider information, you must still proceed with caution. Information is power and should be treated accordingly. When sharing information about a client or colleague with an outside person, make sure that person is trustworthy.

2. Stick to your turf

In season 2, Walt asserts his dominance over his meth-turf by telling some other cooks to beat it. I’m not saying you should go around to all the other PR people in town and tell them to hit the road; I’m saying this can be applied to how we choose our clients. Specializing in certain areas as a PR professional can prove beneficial. Say you take on a few clients in the health/wellness sector, your knowledge base grows the longer you work in the field. This helps improve the experience for your clients by eliminating the time needed to learn the industry before beginning work. Stick to your area of expertise instead of trying to have clients all over the map.

3. Manage your online reputation

In the first season, it’s discovered that Jesse is known around the mean streets of Albuquerque as “Captain Cook.” Not only is this knowledge discovered via word of mouth, Googling him also brings up pages that not just hint of drug use, but spell it out. If Jesse cared at all about not being discovered as the meth-cooking-man he is, he would’ve been more careful about the content he was posting online. As public relations professionals, we need to make sure that we aren’t advertising anything online that we wouldn’t want to be public knowledge. This goes double for our clients.

4. Be prepared for a crisis

Seriously, nothing ever goes right in Breaking Bad. Jesse and Walt always end up in a situation gone awry. For example, in season 2, they drive out to the middle of nowhere and end up getting stranded because they left the keys in the ignition and drained the battery. The kicker is that when they tried to call for one of their friends to come get them, the cell phone died. Had they been more prepared and brought a back-up battery with them, they could’ve avoided the problem. When preparing for an event of some sort, it’s important to think of all the “just-in-case” moments you may need to be prepared for. It may save you, your client, or in Breaking Bad’s case, your life.

5. If you don’t know what you’re doing, hire someone who does

It’s important to make sure a project is done right, a client is treated correctly and a product is delivered with the utmost quality. As PR people, we need to understand our limits. We can’t do it all. When a situation calls for a particular expertise (like writing that expert column on the fiscal cliff), hire a person who can get the job done right – the first time. In Breaking Bad season 2, Walt hires Saul Goodman, a dirty “criminal” lawyer who helps Jesse and Walt keep Badger out of prison.

So next time you think about the TV show that taught America about meth, think about all the great PR lessons that can be learned. And remember…tread lightly.

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