When PR Firms Go Public: Kell on Earth

March 11, 2010

By Ben

The reductive nature of reality television certainly does not provide the best forum in which to portray solid business operations. Viewers look for drama and blunders, and they find a bevy in “Kell on Earth.” Bravo's new show chronicles the inner workings of Kelly Cutrone's PR firm, People's Revolution, which represents international fashion houses. Operating from a multi-story New York compound, which serves as a work and living space for Cutrone, the show gives viewers a 360-degree view of the business and Cutrone, a single mother.

Each episode consists of a barrage of drama. Dejected interns are expelled from the office after creating hack-job gift bags going to major design editors. The entire team is in a flurry for hours over a spreadsheet that could not be printed, which ultimately leads to the loss of an account. A new assistant is hired and quickly fired after tweeting about her new job. With such constant chaos and endless miscommunication, the entire business comes off as a lackadaisical farce.

While viewers may flock to Bravo to get the latest fix of this frenzy, are they getting the reality? When you introduce cameras and cut a 12-hour work day to 44 minutes, a lot is lost. Of course, the reality format prompts producers to focus in on the squabble, the lost client or the fight between interns. This makes it easy to forget that People's Revolution is still the leading PR and branding firm for the fashion industry. Overlooked are the years Cutrone spent fostering relationships, the countless client success stories and the deep focus Cutrone places on mentorship and career development. Or the success of her newly penned book, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You, offering empowering career guidance.

While we may love the drama, we lose a lot with the editing. Quality PR is built on a series of seamless interactions requiring countless hours of detail management. Building databases, trending news, reading and all of the other daily, detail-oriented tasks certainly make boring TV, yet it's what makes PR firms successful -- Including People's Revolution. This passionate commitment to the actual work is cut from “Kell on Earth” and we are left with interns fighting over stamps.

I don't think real PR makes good TV. The compulsory commitment to jobs with long lead times and too many hours in front of the laptop would leave viewers in the doldrums -- hence, Bravo's hyper focus on the explosive. While it would be easy to dismiss Kelly and her gaggle as guilty pleasure TV, we have to remember what gets cut. Ironically, it's where the true success of her business lies.

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