There’s no job that’s the same in real life as it is on TV. Just ask police officers about “Law and Order” (every mystery is solved and tried in an hour with commercials) or doctors about “E.R.” (nobody even mentions insurance companies).
But there aren’t many shows about business PR and those that include in plot lines (“Sex and The City” as one example), tend to get it all terribly wrong. That’s why I’m impressed with the knowledge someone sought out when creating the character of Hugo Baker, played by actor Fisher Stevens, on “Succession.” He may be the best corporate communications professional ever depicted in a fictional character.
Of course, the role of PR is oversimplified, if not caricaturized, on the show. But in season 4 episode 3, when a major business and professional crisis occurs (for those who haven’t seen it, I won’t give too much away), some fundamentals rise to the surface in appropriate fashion. A company does have an obligation to the public to communicate as soon as possible, as accurately as possible, in the event of a crisis particularly when regulators would consider it a “material event.” This applies even when difficult for family members and others to communicate. The show gets that right, even if it’s used as a conflict device.
What makes the character of Hugo genuine in that situation is that while attempting to do what needs to be done, legally and professionally, he also acts as the primary contact for the people affected by the crisis and the media, in addition to serving as a part of the team working on the language of the public statement, while simultaneously handling some logistics. That all mirrors what happens or should happen in real life.
In season 2, Hugo pushed for a “we get it” tag line during a crisis of a different sort. While that language itself wouldn’t be recommended in real life, the sentiment is exactly what a professional could and should recommend in that situation and that’s when the character first got my attention. In season 3, it seemed like Hugo mostly coordinated helicopter travel. Hey, none of us should be above that sort of work, as long as the checks clear.
So often, in political fiction, the PR-type is the one taking orders from the antagonist or trying to “spin.” Or in the case of Mike on the brilliant political satire comedy “Veep,” we saw quirky incompetence. We don’t get a lot of business fiction so in this genre hit, it’s refreshing to see, relatively speaking, someone, finally, realistic.