Yvette Pistorio

Spin Flicks: Six Great PR Movies

By: Yvette Pistorio | September 26, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Yvette Pistorio.

A few weeks ago, I asked the Arment Dietrich Facebook community about their favorite PR movie.

As is typical, there were some really great answers and some smart aleck answers. So I removed the ones that didn’t really count and looked at what was left.

It turns out, there were many good ones. So we narrowed them down to what we think are the top five…and one honorable mention.

Yes, we know we missed a few goodies such as Wag the Dog and Jerry McGuire, but those are on everyone’s list so I wanted to highlight a few others in their place.

“Thank You for Smoking” –Nick Naylor portrays a smooth talking tobacco lobbyist, but seems to be more of a publicist. He doesn’t deny the health risks of smoking, but still defends the cigarette industry. It’s a great illustration of the work of spin, which (as we all know) sucks.

The Social Network – Who doesn’t like a drama about that guy who created the world’s largest social network with more than 900 million users? I’m talking about Facebook for those that have been living under a rock for the past few years. This movie tells a great business story encompassing both digital media and traditional public relations.

“The Queen” – After Princess Diana died in a car crash in 1997, Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Royal Family disagree over how to address her death to the public. The Royal PR team attempts to distance themselves from Princess Diana after the messy divorce from Prince Charles. All the while, Blair tries to convince (and succeeds) Queen Elizabeth to make affectionate comments about her grandchildren’s mother, or a PR nightmare will ensue. It’s a great example of compromise and what to do to avoid a PR crisis.

“Roman Holiday” – Have I mentioned I’m a huge Audrey Hepburn fan? Oh, and we share the same birthday. If you aren’t familiar with the story, Princess Ann derails her public relations tour across Europe when her handlers give her a sedative and she sneaks out that evening to enjoy Rome on her own terms. She must decide to sell her secrets and unhappiness to the world or keep her friendship with reporter Joe hush-hush. This movie shows how much power the reporter has over the story.

“Frost/Nixon” – After staying quiet for three years, former U.S. President, Richard Nixon, attempts to save face, and his legacy, with a historic interview with David Frost.  Here’s a clip from the actual 1977 interview. PR pros are portrayed on both sides preparing their subjects for the interview and attempting to control the outcomes.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” – We all know the story. Willy Wonka needs a successor for his empire so he looks to buzz marketing, PR, and media relations. His Golden Ticket stunt is one for the PR ages. He converts his eccentricity into positive publicity for his brand. I have to say, I’m a fan of the most recent version…and it has everything to do with Johnny Depp.

And a bonus, one of my favorite television shows…

Mad Men – It didn’t win an Emmy this year, but it’s still a great show. I know it features an advertising firm, however it does offer relatable scenarios like client-worker interactions, innovative and new company pitches, and agency dynamics.

There aren’t many movies that depict public relations accurately, but I think these movies did a pretty good job either featuring public relations as a core issue or referring to it in a passing way.

What are some of your favorites?

About Yvette Pistorio

Yvette Pistorio is the shared media manager for Arment Dietrich. She is a lover of pop culture, cupcakes, and HGTV, and enjoys a good laugh. There are a gazillion ways you can find her online.

  • ValeriaBeussink

    @ginidietrich @eveypistorio Thanks for sharing – I was just looking for movie ideas!

    • eveypistorio

      @ValeriaBeussink Oh, my pleasure!

  • Interesting list. If you liked “Thank You for Smoking”, make sure you read the book by Christopher Buckley. Much better than the film. One of those books that has you laughing out loud as you read. 

    • yvettepistorio

       @KenMueller i didn’t realize it was a book either! Books are always better than movies IMHO. Thanks Ken 🙂

  • ValPal4

    Ah! @KenMueller, I didn’t know TYFS was a book first. I love the movie. I’ll definitely check it out.

    • Mr.D

       @ValPal4  @KenMueller TYFS is a great book book. Christopher Buckley has written some very entertaining novels. I  second Ken’s recommendation whole heartedly. (Florence of Arabia and No Way to Treat a Frist Lady are also excellent.

  • eveypistorio

    @JamesWBreen @Cision_Canada 🙂 Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • JamesWBreen

      @eveypistorio Have you checked out TV show Homeland? Awesome show and Interesting Military PR angle

      • eveypistorio

        @JamesWBreen I haven’t, but will def check it out 🙂

        • JamesWBreen

          @eveypistorio just won emmys for best dramatic actor, actress and program 😉

  • magriebler

    “The Queen” is a great watch because it’s also a snapshot of a critical turning point in the history of the royal family. There’s no comparison between the woman who literally hid out in Scotland after Diana’s death and the woman who consented to “jump” out of a plane during the opening ceremony of the Olympics. She did a 180 on media relations in order to save her job. Watching the public’s love fest today with Will and Kate, it’s easy to forget the monarchy was on its way to being dismissed as a money-sucking anachronism. Queen Elizabeth will make a fascinating PR case study some day.

  • ideakid88

    @ginidietrich @eveypistorio Nice! Great article on Twitter today by the way.

    • eveypistorio

      @ideakid88 Thank you 🙂

  • There must have been some votes for Wag The Dog. More of combination PR/Hollywood story.
    Jay Leno has a little cameo as himself. In his monologue he says something like: “The President was out today pressing the flesh. He was dating.” Yep, the Clinton era. 

    • yvettepistorio

       @barrettrossie Lol!! OK, now I need to see it. There was some votes, but I have never seen the movie so I didn’t include it 🙂 

  • kalisah

    @ssmirnov @ginidietrich @eveypistorio And if you’re including Mad Men, I gotta go with The West Wing.

    • eveypistorio

      @kalisah @ssmirnov @ginidietrich I’ve never watched the West Wing…and I watch A LOT of TV!! Too much probably…

      • kalisah

        @eveypistorio @ssmirnov @ginidietrich It is among my All-Time-Favorite TV Shows Ever, along with Friday Night Lights.

  • eveypistorio

    @ssmirnov No, no Sweet Smell of Success…I actually haven’t seen it so now putting it on my list 🙂

  • Hello, I read you interesting article… thanks for posting!

  • ChattyProf

    @amphinitum @ginidietrich Thank you so much for the RT!

  • jspepper

    @twinjenn98 @spinsucks Any PR movie list that doesn’t have Sweet Smell of Success isn’t a list of PR movies. And where’s Phone Booth?

    • twinjenn98

      @jspepper ha! Send a better list my way! 🙂

      • jspepper

        @twinjenn98 There’s only one that matters: Sweet Smell of Success. But, well, gonna guess that those who voted never heard of/seen it. 🙁

        • twinjenn98

          @jspepper No worries, I will check it out since it came highly recommended. I will make my own list and that will be the only one on it 🙂

        • jspepper

          @twinjenn98 It has Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. Come on, that’s Moses AND Joe (from Some Like it Hot). Can’t get better than that. Moses!

    • SpinSucks

      @jspepper @twinjenn98 Hey Jeremy! I actually didn’t want to include movies typically on those lists, so that’s why it’s not on it…<cont>

    • SpinSucks

      @jspepper @twinjenn98 <cont> Also, I’ve never seen Sweet Smell of Success so didn’t think I could give my own description 🙂

      • twinjenn98

        @SpinSucks 🙂