What Can Public Relations Professionals Learn From Mad Men?

mad men 06.04.15


It’s insane to think that we are about to say goodbye to Mad Men forever. The show about a 1960s advertising agency completely revolutionized television and was a massive hit for AMC. Week after week, the series captivated viewers with the professional and personal lives of the employees of fictitious ad agency Sterling Cooper.

Although the show is fictional and takes place in the sixties, there are many lessons to be learned from the series that public relations professionals can utilize in their own lives. While some of the characters, namely Don Draper, may have betrayed less-than-ethically at times, there are still a wealth of lessons to be learn.

In honor of the final episode of Mad Men, here are some lessons that those in the C-Suite can take from the show and use to enhance their own careers.

Understanding Client Demographics

The pilot episode of Mad Men centers on the agency trying to create a campaign for a cigarette company, despite new information that the product is harmful. The agency finds a way to market the cigarettes in a way that conveys the truth of the product while still appealing to the product’s demographic.

Throughout the course of the series, the agency always demonstrates an above-average understanding of their target demographic. This is perhaps the best lesson that any advertising or public relations professional can take away from Mad Men. Above anything else, it’s crucial that you approach each campaign with a thorough and intimate understanding of the demographic that you are trying to specifically target.

Stay On Top Of Trends

One of the most influential moments on Mad Men is when the agency adds a television division, despite the fact that television is a very new medium in the era in which the series takes place. However, the agency demonstrates a deep understanding of the fact that they have to stay on top of trends if they want to remain competitive.

This is a fantastic lesson for public relations professionals, especially in this era. We work in a landscape where new technological mediums are constantly emerging. Whether it’s a new social media platform or a new tech device, it’s crucial that you are consistently capitalizing on new and emerging technologies. This is the most guaranteed way to stay ahead of your competitors and remain a competitive outfit in the digital era.

Being Full-Service And Thinking Outside Of The Box

No one would have ever watched Mad Men if it told the story of a dull, ineffective ad agency that took a boring approach to serving its clients. No, people watched the series because the employees in the show were innovative and uniquely good at what they did. They were a full-service agency that consistently thought outside of the box and looked for new ways to advertise and market old products and ideas.

If you yourself want to be a compelling and effective public relations person, then you need to take a cue from the characters of Mad Men. “Think outside the box” can sound cliche, but it’s truly the most simple and perfect way to describe what you must do if you want to succeed in public relations or advertising. You must always be looking for new and innovative ideas. You might be promoting the same old product; hence, it’s imperative that you find a way to do it that is new, exciting and most of all, compelling to your client.

Be The Best At What You Do And Be Thorough

It’s crucial that you are thorough in your approach to public relations. This means that you monitor important data like rate of returns and examine all the tools at your disposal that can help to tell you what is working and what is not. On Mad Men, the agency was quick to do away with ideas that no longer seemed to be working or serving their client in an optimal manner. If you want to be as great as the employees of Sterling Cooper, you must commit yourself to doing the same for all of the clients you serve. There is no such thing as perfection, but you should consistently strive for excellence. This is the mark of a great public relations person.

Timeless Lessons From A Timeless Show

It’s a sad thing that we are saying goodbye to Mad Men once and for all. Besides entertaining us, the series has taught us much about the world of public relations and advertising. If you continue to take inspiration from this series, even long after it’s off the air, then you will surely be successful as you continue on in your public relations career.

Further, the digital team at 5WPR, has put together this infographic – that highlights 5 Lessons the C-Suite can Learn from Roger Sterling of Mad Men.


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