Our Media Relations Intern, Malcolm White, breaks down lessons we can learn from the hit Neflix show, House of Cards. Study up! 

February 14, 2014, was a special day in America and it had absolutely nothing to do with the hallmark holiday. The second season of Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards was released on Netflix.  If you’re like me, you spent all of Valentine’s weekend bingeing on the political drama. If you have NOT seen the show for yourself, then you should carve some personal time out and treat yourself! 

One of the most intriguing components of the show, for me as an oncoming PR professional, was just how good the main character Frank Underwood was at PR, even if his methods weren't always ethical. There are a lot of lessons to take away for anybody who is in the field. 

Disclaimer: Frank Underwood is a cold, calculating individual who once said “the road to power is paved with hypocrisy and causalities. Never regret.” He is unapologetic in his choices of hurting people and using them as pawns as a means to achieve results and consequentially power. The means to his ends are less than desirable, and in no way is this blog endorsing his moral character. All the while, Frank’s passion and determination is admirable and anybody looking to succeed in PR should seek to emulate THOSE intangibles even as they remain ethical. 

Below are five quotes that Frank Underwood has given us that we can live by as PR professionals:

1. “Friends Make the Worst Enemies” Season 1, Episode 5

Building and maintaining relationships is the key to successful PR, but maintaining them is even more important. Making connections and networking are fundamental parts of the business that help you to establish allies and resources for yourself and your client. In-person interactions are great for establishing a connection, but meeting physically is not always ideal (not to mention, meeting frequently with everybody in your network is nigh impossible). 

Even if you’re not frequently having lunch with your associates, you can still maintain relationships by following reporters on Twitter. You may find yourself coming across story pitches and source requests that you can fulfill with your client. At the same time, you can creatively make yourself stand out to a journalist by tweeting them non-client related articles that you feel the reporter may be interested in. You’ve now made yourself more memorable.

Losing an ally is one of the worst things that you can do in this profession. Just because a relationship that was once securely in your stable sours, does not mean that the journalist no longer needs stories and sources. It just means that instead of them turning to you, they will now turn to your competitors the next time their needs need met. You are no longer the best commodity to your client and it becomes harder to justify their use of your services.  

2. “Insecurity Bores Me” Season 1, Episode 7

Be confident in what you are able to provide to your client as well as what you can provide on behalf of your client to outside media sources. You are competing with dozens of other PR representatives for contracts and audience. The best way to make yourself stand out professionally is by being able to convey that you are able to provide what nobody else can.  

The first step is selling yourself to your client. Know everything that you are worth. You’ve worked years to establish an extensive network and you’ve funneled your determination into the development of your craft. If you have an unbridled amount of passion, then let your client know that that dedication will translate to the representation for their company. Your confidence will give them the confidence in handing over the management of their brand, to you. 

Once you’ve secured the client, as you pitch to journalists, reporters and editors, it is your responsibility to know what’s newsworthy. Do your research on the fields that the journalist cover and make sure that you are sending them something of use. How is your narrative compelling, new and relevant? By taking into consideration these elements prior to your interaction, you can approach the writer with confidence that what you have to offer is perfect for them. You will in turn, become a reliable source to them and a better representative for your client. 

3. “There’s no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth” Season 1, Episode 7

Your client’s brand is important, and so any message being sent should be treated with caution and respect. Be as concise and straight forward as possible. Convoluting your pitch with industry jargon only will confuse the reporter that you are trying to pitch to and any potential readers. Be honest and authentic and the reputation of the brand you represent will grow. On that same note, being frank, (wink, nudge, nudge), with your client about expectations and results will set you up to produce deliverable results. This adds to your invaluable credibility with the company that is investing in you. Integrity and respect are things that can never be bought, so earn it with being transparent.

4. “Avoid wars you can’t win and never raise your flag for an asinine cause like slavery” Season 2, Episode 5

Part of knowing the coverage area of your journalist is knowing exactly what type of material they need. If you’re a PR professional worth your salt, you’re going to be driven and passionate about promoting the brand of your client. However, your energies are wasted if you’re pitching to a reporter who does not write to your targeted audience. 

When canvassing, carefully customize your pitch so that it reflects the appropriate tone and articulately conveys to your designated journalist why it should matter to them. If it won’t matter to them and you know that at the end of the day your cause will never be championed by that publication, divert your efforts towards an ear that is interested in what you say. Your time is valuable.

5. “It’s not beginning the story that I fear; it’s not knowing how the story will end. Everybody is fair game now” Season 2, Episode 10

As a PR account manager, you are responsible for creating media imprints for your client. Once the interest has been created, anything can happen, good or bad. Gone is the adage that any press is good press; surely your client doesn’t want negative media impressions. 

Control the tone of your story by having tons useful assets readily available. Take and provide high quality pictures and video and then write a caption for them. Though the reporter may not elect to use what you’ve provided, they have the option of choosing your work. Already have a company and/or product description crafted with headlines and synopses separately identified. Make it easy and convenient for a journalist to portray your story in an ideal light while maintaining professional integrity. 


MediaSource is a media relations and content production firm that specializes in brand journalism tactics. From news media coverage to consumer video tactics, MediaSource partners with the nation’s top hospitals and corporations to get their message to targeted audiences. MediaSource is best known for delivering brand buzz by amplifying messages across both earned media and company-owned media channels.  



AuthorColleen O'Morrow