Fluff, Frivolity, and the Fabulous Samantha Jones: Representations of Public Relations in Entertainment

  • Ella Chorazy
  • Stephen Harrington
Part of the Palgrave Entertainment Industries book series (PAEI)


Public relations (PR) plays a significant role in the modern media landscape, with its size and influence having grown significantly over the last 30 years. It functions primarily to manage information, image, and stakeholder relationships; however, PR is a discreet occupation that largely operates out of the public eye and is often considered most successful when it is ‘invisible’. In this chapter, using Sex and The City as a case study, we argue fictional entertainment provides critical insight into public relations as a profession and as a practice. We explore how such representations reflect and refract audience understandings about PR, and how this in turn impacts the role and reputation of PR in our society.


  1. Adriaens, F. (2009) ‘Post Feminism in Popular Culture: A Potential for Critical Resistance’, Politics and Culture, vol. 4,
  2. Adriaens, F., and Van Bauwel, S. (2014) ‘Sex and the City: A Postfeminist Point of View? Or How Popular Culture Functions as a Channel for Feminist Discourse’, The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 174–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ames, C. (2010) ‘PR Goes to the Movies: The Image of Public Relations Improves from 1996 to 2008’, Public Relations Review, Vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 164–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bishop, R. L. (1988) ‘What Newspapers Say About Public Relations’, Public Relations Review, Vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 50–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowen, S. A. (2003) ‘“I Thought It Would Be More Glamorous”: Preconceptions and Misconceptions among Students in the Public Relations Principles Course’, Public Relations Review, Vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 199–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowen, S. A. (2009) ‘All Glamour, No Substance? How Public Relations Majors and Potential Majors in an Exemplar Program View the Industry and Function’, Public Relations Review, Vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 402–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, R. (2011) ‘A Managerial Perspective of Public Relations: Public Relations and the Internet – the Impact of the Social Web’, in (eds.) Moss, D. and DeSanto, B., Public Relations: A Managerial Perspective, Sage Publications: London, pp. 342–356.Google Scholar
  8. Cutlip, S. M. (1994) The Unseen Power: Public Relations: A History, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Hillsdale, NJ.Google Scholar
  9. Davis, A. (2002) Public Relations Democracy: Public Relations, Politics and the Mass Media in Britain, Manchester University Press: Manchester, UK.Google Scholar
  10. DeFleur, M. L. (1964) ‘Occupational Roles as Portrayed in Television’, The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 57–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dozier, D. M. (1988) ‘Women in Public Relations: Breaking Public Relations’ Glass Ceiling’, Public Relations Review, Vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 6–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eschholz, S., Bufkin, J., and Long, J. (2002) ‘Symbolic Reality Bites: Women and Racial/Ethnic Minorities in Modern Film’, Sociological Spectrum, Vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 299–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fröhlich, R., and Peters, S. B. (2007) ‘PR Bunnies Caught in the Agency Ghetto? Gender Stereotypes, Organizational Factors, and Women’s Careers in PR Agencies’, Journal of Public Relations Research, Vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 229–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gauntlett, D. (2008) Media, Gender and Identity: An Introduction (2nd ed.) Routledge: London.Google Scholar
  15. Grunig, J. E. (2006) ‘Furnishing the Edifice: Ongoing Research on Public Relations as a Strategic Management Function’, Journal of Public Relations Research, Vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 151–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Grunig, J. E. (ed.) (2008) Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management, Routledge: New York, NY.Google Scholar
  17. Halliwell, N. (2015) ‘Dear PR People: Calm Down’, Cision, 1 July,
  18. Hines, R. (2008) ‘Public Relations: Not as Glamorous as Samantha Jones Wants You to Believe’, Culture Feast,
  19. Jermyn, D. (2009) TV Milestones: Sex and the City, Wayne State University Press: Detroit, MI.Google Scholar
  20. Jin, Y., Sha, B.-L., and Jiang, H. (2014) ‘Tuning in to the Rhythm: The Role of Coping in Strategic Management of Work-Life Conflicts in the Public Relations Profession’, Public Relations Review, Vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 69–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jo, S. (2003) ‘The Portrayal of Public Relations in the News Media’, Mass Communication and Society, Vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 34–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Johnston, J. L. (2010) ‘Girls on Screen: How Film and Television Depict Women in Public Relations’, PRism, Vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 1–16. Scholar
  23. Keenan, K. L. (1996) ‘Network Television News Coverage of Public Relations: An Exploratory Census of Content’, Public Relations Review, Vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 215–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Khazan, O. (2014) ‘Why Are There So Many Women in Public Relations’, The Atlantic, 8 August,
  25. L’Etang, J. (2004) Public Relations in Britain: A History of Professional Practice in the 20th Century, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, NJ.Google Scholar
  26. L’Etang, J. (2008) Public Relations: Concepts, Practice and Critique, Sage Publications: London.Google Scholar
  27. Lambert, C., and White, C. (2012) ‘Feminization of the Film? Occupational Roles of Public Relations Characters in Movies’, Public Relations Journal, Vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 1–24.Google Scholar
  28. Lee, M. (2001) ‘The Image of the Government Flack: Movie Depictions of Public Relations in Public Administration’, Public Relations Review, Vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 297–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lee, M. (2009) ‘Flicks of Government Flacks: The Sequel’, Public Relations Review, Vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 159–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lin, K. (2012) ‘No Real PR Is Not Like Samantha Jones PR’, Weber Shandwick, 17 July,
  31. MacNamara, J. (2012) ‘Journalism and Public Relations: Unpacking Myths and Stereotypes’, Australian Journalism Review, Vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 33–50.Google Scholar
  32. Mazzoleni, G., and Schulz, W. (1999) ‘“Mediatization” of Politics: A Challenge for Democracy’, Political Communication, Vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 247–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McNair, B. (2006) Cultural Chaos: Journalism, News and Power in a Globalised World, Routledge: New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McRobbie, A. (2004) ‘Post-Feminism and Popular Culture’, Feminist Media Studies, Vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 255–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Melgin, E. (2013) ‘Gender Imbalance: Why Is the Female-Dominated PR Industry Still Led by Men’, International Public Relations Association, 23 October,
  36. Miller, K. S. (1999) ‘Public Relations in Film and Fiction: 1930–1995’, Journal of Public Relations Research, Vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 3–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Morris, T., and Goldsworthy, S. (2008) PR: A Persuasive Industry? Spin, Public Relations and the Shaping of the Modern Media, Palgrave Macmillan: London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Morris, T., and Goldsworthy, S. (2011) PR Today: The Authoritative Guide to Public Relations, Palgrave Macmillan: London.Google Scholar
  39. Penning, T. (2008) ‘First Impressions: US Media Portrayals of Public Relations in the 1920s’, Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 344–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pompper, D. (2014) ‘Interrogating Inequalities Perpetuated in a Feminized Field: Using Critical Race Theory and the Intersectionality Lens to Render Visible That Which Should Not Be Disaggregated’, in (eds.) Daymon, C. and Demetrious, K., Gender and Public Relations: Critical Perspectives on Voice, Image and Identity, Routledge: New York, NY, pp. 67–86.Google Scholar
  41. PR Daily (2012) ‘“PR Is All About Party Planning” – and Other Common Misconceptions’, Ragan’s PR Daily, 27 December,
  42. Saltzman, J. (2012) ‘The Image of the Public Relations Practitioner in Movies and Television, 1901–2011’, The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture, Vol. 3, Spring, pp. 1–50.Google Scholar
  43. Schor, J. (2008) The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, Basic Books: New York, NY.Google Scholar
  44. Shah, A. (2015) ‘Why Aren’t There More Female CEOs in PR?’, The Holmes Report: Charting the future of public relations, 16 April,’t-there-more-female-ceos-in-pr.
  45. Signorielli, N. (1993) ‘Television and Adolescents’ Perceptions About Work’, Youth and Society, Vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 314–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Simone, D. (2010) ‘What Would Samantha Jones Do?’, Flack Me: The PR Professionals’ Blog,
  47. Sohn, A. (2004) Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell (revised and updated ed.), Pocket Books: New York.Google Scholar
  48. Solis, B., and Breakenridge, D. K. (2009) Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media Is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR, Pearson Education: Upper Saddle River, NJ.Google Scholar
  49. Spicer, C. (1993) ‘Images of P.R. In the Print Media’, Journal of Public Relations Research, Vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 47–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Turow, J. (1980) ‘Occupation and Personality in Television Dramas: An Industry View’, Communication Research, Vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 295–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wilcox, D. L., and Cameron, G. T. (2010) Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics (9th ed.) Allyn & Bacon: Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  52. Williams, A. T. (2014) ‘The Growing Pay Gap between Journalism and Public Relations’, Pew Research Centre, 11 August,
  53. Wright, D. K., and VanSlyke Turk, J. (2007) ‘Public Relations Knowledge and Professionalism: Challenges to Educators and Practitioners’, in (eds.) Toth, E. L., Grunig, J. E., and Grunig, L. A., The Future of Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management: Challenges for the Next Generation, Erlbaum: Mahwah, NJ, pp. 571–588.Google Scholar
  54. Wrigley, B. J. (2002) ‘Glass Ceiling? What Glass Ceiling? A Qualitative Study of How Women View the Glass Ceiling in Public Relations and Communications Management’, Journal of Public Relations Research, Vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 27–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Yeomans, L. (2010) ‘Soft Sell: Gendered Experience of Emotional Labour in UK Public Relations Firms’, PRism, Vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 1–14.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ella Chorazy
    • 1
  • Stephen Harrington
    • 2
  1. 1.Creative Industries FacultyQueensland University of TechnologyQueenslandAustralia
  2. 2.School of CommunicationQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations