5 ‘Breaking Bad’ takeaways for PR pros

The Emmy-winning series wraps up Sunday, prompting one writer to cook up a few industry insights.

As the AMC program “Breaking Bad” reaches its series finale on Sunday, it’s safe to say I may be a little slow to the whole phenomenon—just maybe. While the rest of the world awaits the series culmination, I’m still on Season 2.

However, from the few episodes I have watched, I’ve picked up a few public relations lessons:

1. Be careful whom you trust.

In Season 2, Badger believes an undercover police officer when he tells him he’s not a cop; Badger tries to sell him meth and gets arrested. What does this tell us? Even if you feel you can trust an outsider with insider information, you must proceed with caution. Information is power and should be treated accordingly. When sharing information with an outsider, 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 choosing 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.

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 get 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 backup battery with them, they could’ve avoided the problem. When preparing for an event, anticipate the “just in case” moments. It may save you, your client, or, in the case of “Breaking Bad,” 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 pros, we must understand our limits. We can’t do it all. When a situation calls for particular expertise (such as writing that expert column about 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.

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.

Nicole Rose Dion is social media coordinator/graphic designer at The Abbi Agency. Follow her on Twitter @nicolerosedion and read more of her work on the agency’s blog, where a version of this story originally appeared.

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