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Did he just say the s-word?

If you follow Jonathan Cheban or Simon Huck on Twitter, you’re no stranger to the new E! reality show “The SPINdustry,” which takes viewers behind the scenes of NYC firm Command PR.

As a PR student, I had negative feelings towards the show before it even aired. I’ve learned throughout college that “spin” is a curse word in the PR dictionary. However, since I’m a TV addict, I decided to watch the show. It was hard for me to only think of it as entertainment, because it’s about the industry I will soon be a part of.

According to the show, you don’t need to know how to write a communication plan or press release, but to get your boss’ sandwich order right instead. Actually, I take that back. I think press release was mentioned once.

My issue is not really with the show because I understand it’s for entertainment. I only hate the way it makes the PR industry look. The women working for Command PR don’t seem educated at all (it could be the editing, but who knows).

When someone asks me what my major is, they look confused when I say “PR.”
Then I usually get a comment like, “what’s that?” or “what can you do with that?”
I get upset thinking about how the show will affect the perception of the PR industry.

Command PR seems to focus on the publicity of celebrities, which is completely different from PR. According to a dictionary definition, publicity is “extensive mention in the news media or by word of mouth or other means of communication,” whereas, PR focuses on building relationships with target publics.

Since the show aired last Sunday night, it has become a trending topic on blogs and Twitter.

In her blog, “Little Pink Book PR,” Sasha H. Muradali wrote “I know the show is for entertainment, but I don’t appreciate how it makes my industry, my degree and the field I work in look to people on the outside.”

Muradali also had an interesting conversation with Cheban and Huck via Twitter. Cheban replied with some not-so-nice words, which is not good PR (I might add).

Just a few negative tweets about the show:

MRiley2 : “It was painful to watch…RT @ashgin116: #SPINdustry is an embarrassment to PR professionals everywhere. ugh, lame…”

JennaGlynn: “Chatter in my office about #spindustry. Did E! Turn PR pros everywhere upside down last night?”

samhowsare: “#SPINdustry is going to make people think #PR is all about planning events and dealing w/ celebs.”

Cheban hasn’t hesitated to respond to the negative comments. If he is a big-time PR professional, why would he even waste his time responding negatively? He’s definitely not building relationships by rudely responding to tweets.

I’m not taking anything away from Cheban and Huck for their company or show. Good for them if their show is a success. In fact, I think it probably will be successful, because people thrive off the so-called “reality TV” show.

I think the show does nothing for the PR industry, and using the s-word makes it harder to legitimize PR.

by Haley Barr


  1. Post comment

    I am a PR professor up north in Ohio and just found the Platform Magazine website and your blogs. Stellar!!! You all are going to go places in the PR industry.

    I wanted to comment on this particular post, to give a look at a possible silver lining of the SPINdustry show. Now, I have never actually seen the show, so I could be way off base.

    But, perhaps the show will make teens who are looking at college right now want to major in PR? So, it may be helpful as a recruitment tool of sorts. Not that I would endorse it as such, but likely teens who are watching it and like what they see will at least look into studying PR. Then, once we have hooked them, we can then set them straight!

    Often, some of the loudest protesters of any cause (this one being what PR really is) are those who have been converted.

    Once again, awesome work to all the Platform magazine students and good luck wherever you end up!

  2. Post comment

    I have only seen a couple episodes of the show but I agree that it definitely has a negative effect for the PR industry. Everyone on the show seems so catty, which is not the kind of environment I want to work in. However, I think that E wanted the people on the show to act that way because it would probably boost their ratings.

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    Preach it, Haley. I really appreciate what you did here in writing this. Sometimes, we have to ignore things that reflect us negatively, but other times we take a stand. I think that, in writing this article, you showed just exactly what good PR is really about: finding that balance of maintaining an image while spending more time on keeping the machine behind that image alive. And I am glad that your article attracted Sasha. A great example of doing a great thing and attracting positive attention! And its a toast to the power of Social Media!

  4. Post comment

    Rest assured, SPINdustry has almost nothing to do with the PR industry. What’s more, I cannot understand how Cheban and Huck could permit themselves to be portrayed in that manner- whether true or false. I wouldn’t permit my clients to be memorialized on tape forever acting like that – they were not only unprofessional, but demonstrated a lack of good judgment and common courtesy.

    While they may be good at what they do, you wouldn’t know it from watching the show.

    By the way – in the Kardashians episode that came before this show, Cheban was at the dinner where a very drunk Scott went out of control and physically attacked a waiter who was told not to serve him more alcohol, trying to force a $100 bill in the man’s mouth.

    Cheban knew the cameras were rolling, but (based on the editing) the PR guy did nothing to try to mitigate the situation or intercede – he made no attempt to make his friend/client Kim and her family look better in the incident. Scott’s behavior was foul, yet no one bothered to get him away from the waiter. I hope they apologized to the waiter, sincerely. They all looked like spoiled, selfish people, even though at least some of them were probably in denial in the moment, hoping it would just go away, and afraid to do anything (which can happen in such situations).

    If Cheban interceded, he also would have made a friend – the head of GNC – who looked like a real jerk in that show, which is bad PR for him and GNC. He could have stepped in, but instead just watched and, per the editing, seemed amused at times.

    As an aside, I read that Cheban and Huck’s firm is about connecting celebrities with products for branding, as opposed to straight PR. I assume that press release is on PR Newswire and is searchable on that site as well as on Google. It would be interesting to see if it came from their firm or from another firm.

  5. Post comment

    Great post! I enjoyed reading your post and comments mentioned above. I feel this is just another guilty pleasure reality show that people will watch just for the sake of watching. We can focus on how it makes the public relations industry look, but we can also take action to show what the public relations industry is really all about!

  6. Post comment

    Hi Hayley,

    Thanks for the mention in your article. You showed up in my Google Alerts! 🙂

    I agree with you fully on the television show. What bothers me isn’t so much Cheban or Huck, I believe everyone is free to live as they so should choose, but rather, the depiction and the message it sends out about the industry and the people (particularly women) who work inside of it.

    I don’t know if you saw the “comments” section of my post, but Katie, who was the associate who had been working for CommandPR for about one year and who was discussing her 4-month old dog in the pilot episode, commented two days ago after Cheban ranted to me.

    We agreed to disagree, but it’s an interesting dynamic between what those people find acceptable and what the rest of the PR industry is seeing the show as.

    Great article & good luck w/ your blog!

    Thanks again,
    Best wishes,


  7. Post comment


    Great post! I, too, was a “victim” of Jonathan Cheban’s Twitter rant when I tweeted that the Web site for Command PR,, was “nothing more than a boilerplate with a typo.” If you check out the site for yourself, you will see that there are no interactive features, no examples of the work the agency has done… nothing. Plus, they were missing a comma. Jonathan quickly @replied me, telling me not to “hate” and that it wasn’t a good look for me. I immediately wrote a ranting blog post about the negative PR he was doing for himself and his show. Not a smart guy if you ask me, and I refuse to watch his show because of that.

    Real PR practitioners should know that every move they make and every word they speak has the ability to make or break relationships, and should make a conscious effort to keep their company in the best light possible.

    Here is a link to my blog post, which mirrors yours very closely:


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