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Oh Schitt! 3 Public Relations Lessons from Alexis Rose

Published on October 30, 2020, at 6:20 p.m.
By Bailey Broughton.

As fans of the show are aware, “Schitt’s Creek” has returned to Netflix for its sixth and final season after becoming the first comedy program to sweep all seven of the major series prize categories at the 72nd annual Emmys. The show caught the affection of audiences across the country as it followed the financial ruin of the extravagant, affluent Rose family and how they adjusted to a much less glamorous and humbling lifestyle in the town of Schitt’s Creek, which David Rose bought for his son as a joke. As charming as the narratives of David, Johnny and Moira Rose are, it is Alexis Rose that public relations professionals look to for inspiration.

Photo by Schitt’s Creek

Perhaps the most major character development that takes place for Rose is her pursuit of a complete education and her entrepreneurial venture to open her own integrated communications firm: Alexis Rose Communications. Throughout the career she created for herself, she has taken the role of a publicist for her mother, a former soap-opera star who is hoping to regain her relevance. Rose also gives marketing and public relations insights to her father, Johnny, and his business partner, Stevie, as they rebrand their motel.

While many viewers may find it hard to take Rose seriously in her business pursuits due to her flamboyant and flashy personal style, there are three lessons that public relations practitioners can learn from this driven self-starter.

Always continue to self-educate
Being a high school dropout, Rose relied heavily on her family’s status and affluence to continue living her lavish, extravagant lifestyle. Once things changed for her family, she realized that she had to continue to educate herself in order to survive in a competitive business world.

In pursuit of her entrepreneurial dream, Rose completed her high school education in her late 20s and continued to take PR coursework at the local community college. Her brother, David, ridiculed her for returning to education at such a late age, but Alexis reinforced that it is never too late to learn.

Some public relations professionals emerge from sophisticated PR programs at esteemed universities, and others jump into the workforce without a formal education. Regardless of what circumstances you enter the industry under, it is very important for public relations pros to continue learning throughout their careers. The pursuit of education could mean going back to school to earn a higher degree, or even becoming involved with your local PRSA chapter to have constant opportunities for seminars and professional development.

It is absolutely necessary for public relations personnel to prioritize their continued education, as this industry is rapidly evolving technologically and culturally — and you’re expected to keep up with the changing times. So, as formal or informal as it may be, Rose shows how important the pursuit of learning is to establishing and maintaining your career.

Take advantage of opportunities to reframe situations that aren’t ideal
As an early professional, Rose’s plans were not always executed successfully. For example, as the publicist for her mother, Rose was in charge of coordinating Moira’s red carpet movie premiere. During what was supposed to be a stunning visual, Rose planned the release of dozens of crows amongst the audience in the middle of the premiere. The release of the birds was ultimately a disaster, as the crows (and black-painted seagulls) proceeded to attack the audience in a massacre-like fashion. The movie subsequently got heavy press coverage, albeit mostly negative, proving that Rose’s concept of “all press is good press” does not hold true.

As most PR professionals do, Rose got the opportunity to interview with local media outlets on behalf of her mother’s movie and used it to reframe the event. In said interviews, Moira and she agreed to call the crows fiasco a “carefully orchestrated, entirely deliberate PR stunt.” Rose refers to the premiere as an immersive experience that was heightened by the presence of the rogue crows.

Surprisingly, this approach actually worked. Rose was the new talk of the public relations industry, having professionals from New York and media members from BuzzFeed dying to talk with her about how she generated so much good publicity from her “planned” crows stunt. Additionally, after the fiasco was spun as part of a deliberate plan, the movie was trending on Interflix.

The lesson to take from Rose in this instance is not to be untruthful about a situation, but rather to be creative when things don’t always go as planned. Rose made herself accessible to the media and inquiring professionals directly after the mishap, which gave her the opportunity to correct the narrative and put the situation in a positive light. Certainly as public relations professionals, we cannot expect to have complete control over every little detail (as much as we would like to). Rose teaches us a valuable lesson about taking our mistakes in stride and continuing to pursue opportunities to shine a more positive light on a situation through accessibility to the media and connections in the industry. How creative!

Photo by Schitt’s Creek

Always study your client … well.
In season six, Rose takes on the position of “freelance brand invigorator.” One of the clients that she agrees to lend her PR expertise to is called Elevation, a business owned by a charming exercise guru who is almost too loved by his customers.

Rose brings several of her friends into the studio to see firsthand the magical experience that this guru provides. While initially unsure, after completing his strange workout each woman is eager to sign up for a trip to the “gateway,” even though they are entirely unaware of what that term actually means. Stevie Budd, the only remaining critic in the group, asks Rose to clarify the language with the business owner so that she knows what she is getting into. Upon asking about the “gateway” and his frequent mention of demons and spirits during the workout, Rose realizes that Elevation is actually a cult.

Public relations professionals must ensure that they study their prospective clients and know them well before they agree to work with them. When PR professionals sign on a client, they are agreeing to be public advocates of the brand. Therefore, you really want to know the product or service that you are publicly endorsing before you stake your reputation on it. Had Rose done a little more background research, perhaps she wouldn’t have endorsed this brand by inviting her friends to join the experience, thus sacrificing her credibility. Brand audits and SWOT analyses are incredibly useful tools for studying and understanding your client, and a thorough evaluation is always recommended, if not required, before agreeing to work with a client.

Most professionals would not bypass a step as integral as background research, but Rose’s failure to do so shows us exactly what can happen if we slack on auditing potential clients. Let’s thank Rose for showing us how not to publicly endorse a cult.

Rose is still trying to navigate the public relations industry as a new professional, and her character demonstrates the struggles of entering such a dynamic industry with just entry-level knowledge. Although she may be easy to dismiss as flighty or ditsy, she is essentially the same position as every recent graduate entering the PR industry.

Her struggles are more relatable than you may initially think, but you are sure to see it as you are beginning to navigate life as a professional as well. When you put aside the glitz and glamour of her former lifestyle, Alexis Rose is the face of recent and impending college graduates entering the industry. Through her failures and successes, the PR world has a lot to learn from Rose.

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