Archive for February 2011

In this update, thanks go to Cheryl Ann Lambert of Boston University (films), Scott Davidson of De Monfort University (documentaries) and Tom Hove of Michigan State University (novel). Other recent updates include a novel on PR (called Public Relations – a novel of the utilities field) – from 1936 by Louis Lefko – one of the first ever written? –  and a major expansion of the book list, with thanks to Conor McGrath and Phillip Young. It also includes five novels on PR mentioned by Edward L. Bernays in his seminal Public Relations (1952).

The backstory: In 2007, I asked PR educator colleagues in the UK for help in developing a list of films, television and radio programmes/series and books that either featured public relations as a core issue or referred to it in a passing way. They responded enthusiastically with suggestions that went back into the 1950s and forward to the present including films on current release and a soap opera set in a real PR consultancy in Manchester, UK. It was added to in 2008 and in January and February 2011 with other references. Now it’s even bigger and we have gone back to the 1930s.

Here are the lists we have developed – Can you add to them so that we have a world-wide resource on the visual and fictional presentation of PR?


Wag the Dog

Thank You for Smoking

America’s Sweethearts

The Sweet Smell of Success

The Devil wears Prada

The Control Room 

Hancock (Alcoholic superhero cuckolds his PR man)

The China Syndrome

Sliding Doors – key character works in PR

Bridget Jones’s Diary’s_Diary

Days of Wine and Roses

Four’s a Crowd

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

Phone Booth

Primary Colors

Sex and the City (movie)

Waikiki Wedding

Jersey Girl

The Island

In the Loop…

St Trinians with Mischa Barton as PR guru JJ French (second clip below)

Movie trailer  

Mischa Barton 

In her recent research paper on ‘public relations characters’, Cheryl Ann Lambert (Boston University) analysed the characterisation of PR people in 22 movies since the mid-1990s. We had already listed some of the movies – and here are 13 new movies to consider. Cheryl Ann’s paper will be published in the Proceedings of the International Public Relations Research Conference later in the year.

For your consideration (2006)

Gordy (1995)

Independence Day (1996)

Mars Attacks (1996)!

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous (2005)

Paperback Hero (1999)

People I Know (2002)

Showtime (2002)

State of Play (2009)

The American President (1995)

 The Big Tease (1999)

 The Kid (2000)

 Valentine’s Day (2010)



The March of Time – Post-War Problems And Solutions 5 – Modern Main Street, U.S.A. (1953)

Archival newsreel segments include Public Relations — This Means You (1947) about the engineering of the public’s consent by business; available as VHS tape (1998).

The March of Time – Public Relations – This Means You – (Volume 14, Episode 4) – Nov. 28, 1947

SYNOPSIS: Early Public Relations in US, many PR greats, John D. Rockefeller Sr, Lights Golden Jubilee, Freedom Train. Runs: 16:03. Available from HBO Online.

Roger and Me

Century of the Self

The War Room

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room   

The Corporation  

The War You Don’t See (John Pilfer)

Steel City


Scott Davidson recommends these documentaries on US political campaigning

 Our Brand is Crisis (2005) Documentary on US political marketing and its consequences

Street Fight (2005): Mayoral elections doc in New Jersey

K Street (2003) HBO series on Washington lobbyists which mixed actors with real life characters such as James Carville



Absolutely Fabulous

Absolute Power

The Thick of It

Some Mothers do Have’Em’Ave_’Em – Series two, episode three – the public relations course.

Party Animals

The West Wing

Spitting Image

Spinning Jenny – A new twist to PR film / TV with an interactive internet-based soap opera set in Manchester’s Brazen PR and made by online entertainment service

PoweR Girls

Sex and the City

Spin City

The Spin Crowd

PR (CBC, Canada)

Kell on Earth – Kelle Cutrone’s series about her fashion PR agency, people’s republic

The Silent Speaker – two-part Nero Wolfe Mystery (2002)



* Recent updates includes novels identified by Conor McGrath, Phillip Young and Tom Hove.

M.C. Beaton (2004) Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, Robinson Publishing  ISBN 1845290801. (First published 1992)

There is a series of (so far) 21 Agatha Raisin books by MC Beaton (Marion Chesney). Agatha is a public relations consultant-turned-detective who occasionally resumes her former career.,  

Martyn Bedford (1997) Exit, Orange and Red, London: Black Swan, ISBN 0593039866

Christopher Brookmyre (2000) Boiling a Frog, London: Abacus, ISBN-10: 0349114137; (2004). Be My Enemy, London: Abacus, ISBN 0349116814

Christopher Buckley (1994) Thank you for Smoking, Harper Perennial, ISBN 0679431748; Paperback Random House, ISBN 0812976525; (2005) Florence of Arabia, Random House Trade, ISBN 0812972260; (2008) Boomsday, Twelve (Allison & Busby), 978-0446697972

Alistair Campbell (2007) The Blair Years, Random House; Paperback August 2008, ISBN 0099514753

John Christopher (2009) The Death of Grass London: Penguin Modern Classics, ISBN 0141190175

Denise Deegan (2003) Turning Turtle, Avalon, ISBN 0717135691

Eric Dezenhall (2003) Money Wanders, St Martin’s Press, ISBN 0312311346; (2004) Jackie Disaster: A Mystery, St Martin’s Press. ISBN 0312307713; (2005) Turnpike Flameout, St Martins Minotaur, ISBN 0312340613; (2005) Shakedown Beach, Minotaur, ISBN 031230773X;

John Dos Passos (1930) The 42nd Parallel. Perhaps the first great novel (first part of the highly acclaimed USA Trilogy) to include a major character from public relations, J. Ward Morehouse. Mariner Books, ISBN: 9780618056811(Recommended by Tom Hove)

David Gates (2000) Preston Falls, Orion, ISBN 057506823X

Lauren Henderson (2002) My Lurid Past, Time Warner Paperbacks, ISBN 0751532614

Carl Hiaasen (1993) Native Tongue, Pan Books, ISBN 0330321935

Wendy Holden (2002) Fame Fatale, London: Headline Review, ISBN 0747266158

Jim Kelly (2003) The Water Clock, London: Penguin, ISBN 0141009330

Richard T. Kelly (2008) Crusaders, London: Faber & Faber, ISBN 0571228062

Sophie Kinsella (2009) Confessions of a Shopaholic, London: Black Swan, ISBN 0552774812

Anonymous [Joe Klein] (1996) Primary Colors, Grand Central Publishing, ISBN 0446604275

Graham Lancaster (1997) Grave Song, Coronet ISBN 0340667117

Louis Lefko (1936) Public relations: a novel of the utilities field, Philadelphia: Dorrance & Company, ASIN B000879T9I

Christopher Matthew (1986) Family Matters, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0340394374; (1988) The Simon Crisp Diaries, Coronet, ISBN 034043077X; (2001) Knocking On, John Murray Publishers, ISBN 0719562244

Val McDermid (2009) A Darker Domain, Harper, ISBN 0007243316

Gregory McDonald (1988) Fletch and the Man Who, Warner, ISBN 0446303038

Kevin MacNeil (2005) The Stornaway Way, London: Hamish Hamilton, ISBN 0241143209

David Michie (2001) Conflict of Interest, Time Warner Paperbacks, ISBN 0751529567; (2001) Pure Deception, Little, Brown, ISBN 0316855375; (2002) Expiry Date, Time Warner Paperbacks, ISBN 0316859451

Mark Mills (2009) The Information Officer, London: Harper Collins, ISBN 0007276885

Andrew O’Connor (2006) Exclusive, Poolbeg Press, ISBN 1842232398

Daniel Price (2004) Slick, Villard, ISBN 1400062349

J.B. Priestley (1969) Out of Town, London: Penguin, ISBN 0140030131

J.B. Priestley (1996 reprint) The Image Men, Mandarin, ISBN 0749322969

K. Sampson (2000) Powder, London: Vintage

Murray Sayle (2008) A Crooked Sixpence, Brighton: Revel Barker, ISBN 0955823846

Michael Shea (1996) Spin Doctor, London: Harper Collins, ISBN 000649322X

Martin Sixsmith (2005) Spin, London: Pan, ISBN 0330426761

Raymond Strother (1991) Cottonwood, Penguin, ISBN 0525249524

Mimi Thebo (2002) The saint who loved me, Allison & Busby, ISBN: 0749005041

Sloan Wilson (1955; 2002 reprint) The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Four Walls Eight Windows/ Capo Publishing, ISBN 1568582463

Robert van Riper (1958) A Really Sincere Guy, David McKay, ASIN: B0007E5TB4

Penny Vincenzi (2007) Almost a Crime, Headline Review, ISBN 0755332652

Bruce Wagner (1998) I’m Losing You, New American Library, ISBN 0452278686

Keith Waterhouse (1977) Billy Liar on the Moon, London: Penguin Books, ISBN 0140042830

Daisy Waugh (2002) The New You Survival Guide, London: Harper Collins, ISBN: 0007119062

Des Wilson (1992) Campaign, Time Warner Paperbacks, ISBN 074740769X

* PR novels mentioned by Edward L. Bernays (1952) Public Relations, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, p.149

Rion Bercovici (1937) For Immediate Release, New York: Sheridan House, ASIN: B002J4GJP0

Charles Harrison (1948) Nobody’s Fool, New York: Henry Holt and Company, ASIN: B001CJVDTA

Jeremy Kirk (1951) The Build-up Boys,  Rupert Hart-Davis, ASIN: B000FMPQRA

Sinclair Lewis (Reprint 2005) It Can’t Happen Here, New American Library. ISBN-10: 045121658X (Originally published by Doubleday, Doran, 1935)

Rex Stout (Reprint 2009) The Silent Speaker (Nero Wolfe Mystery), Bantam USA, ISBN-10: 0553234978 (Originally published by Viking, 1946),



Absolute Power



Johnston, J. (2010) A history of Public Relations on screen: Cinema and television depictions since the 1930s. Proceedings of the First International History of Public Relations Conference, Bournemouth University, July 8-9, 2010. pp. 188-209. Available at:

Miller, K. (1999) Public Relations in Film and Fiction. Journal of Public Relations Research, Vol 11, No.1, pp. 3 – 28


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