8 PR lessons From ‘The Office’
1. Embrace the awkward. “The Office” was built on awkward moments and uncomfortable pauses, says The Boston Globe. John Krasinski, who plays Jim Halpert on the show, has made a career out of reacting to them. As PR people, you’ll be faced with your share of similarly awkward moments in your career. It’s best to tackle them head on rather than letting them fester and risking that situations will just get too weird.
2. Take charge of your destiny. Remember when Michael Scott left Dunder Mifflin and launched the Michael Scott Paper Co. in season five? That took guts. Although he eventually rejoined Dunder Mifflin, he did so on his terms. Such gumption is often necessary in this competitive business landscape, especially for the industry’s broad pool of consultants and freelancers.
3. Learn to seize opportunities. Dunder Mifflin was only a fictional paper company when the show began in 2005. Today, there’s an actual brand of Dunder Mifflin paper you can buy, thanks to Quill.com. The company, owned by Staples, launched a licensing deal with NBC in 2011 to sell Dunder Mifflin paper. Quill’s Paul Bessinger told Advertising Age that the company has big plans. “We think this thing can stand on its own and become an evergreen brand,” he said.
4. Value work/life balance. Achieving a healthy work/life balance can be nearly impossible for some. New research shows that 39 percent of employees worldwide say they have a solid work/life balance. No need to worry about balance at Dunder Mifflin. Some might say the employees skewed a bit too heavily on the life side. At the other end of the spectrum (as usual) was Dwight Schrute, who ran a beet farm and bed and breakfast when he wasn’t selling paper. That’s more of a work/work balance.
5. Be careful with those interoffice relationships. First, Angela was secretly with Dwight. Then she was not so secretly with Andy. Then while she was openly with Andy she was, again, secretly with Dwight. Office romances can turn tricky pretty quickly. Just remember: For every Jim and Pam there are a dozen or more Michael and Jans.
6. Remember that customer service is key. I’ve heard several people in the last couple of years claim that customer service and public relations are interchangeable. Seemingly small problems can become amplified by social media into big problems and—in some cases—PR nightmares. The Dunder Mifflin sales team always prided itself on customer service. They weren’t always the cheapest, but you’d always get a real person on the phone—even if that real person was Dwight. Michael may have been a bumbling boss, but his customer service skills were impeccable. There’s something to be said for someone who remembers the little stuff.
7. Don’t forget community relations. Though the show was filmed in California, Scranton was its setting. Krasinski recently told the AP that the town was itself a character on the show. The writers used real settings from the town, including Cooper’s Seafood House, Poor Richard’s Pub, and the Steamtown mall. Those have become tourist destinations for the show’s devotees. The production team and cast even held their wrap party in Scranton at the town’s minor league baseball stadium. Which leads to our final point …
8. Leave an enduring legacy. So often when we exit our client meetings or leave the companies we work for, it’s with a whimper. Maybe a few back pats, some drinks at the nearest dive—or you straight up Jerry Maguire it. Keep in mind that you have a great opportunity to leave a lasting impression on that team between giving notice and walking out the door for a final time. If you want to consider the legacy that “The Office” will leave, take a look at the new genres it spawned. The mockumentary style made famous by Rob Reiner and Christopher Guest with their movies and by Garry Shandling with “The Larry Sanders Show” was made mainstream by “The Office.” It’s tough to say whether shows like “Parks and Recreation” or “Modern Family” would exist without those predecessors.