Art by Daiana Feuer


Photo by Art by Daiana Feuer

Lessons From TV Spin Doctors

Here it is: The best PR advice you’ll never pay for.

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When Kristen Stewart cheated on Robert Pattinson, you know her highly paid handlers went into overdrive: Lay low. Apologize to Rupert Sander’s wife. Profess undying love for Rob. And release a statement calling the affair a “mistake.”

But what about you? Wouldn’t you love to have a spin-doctor on retainer, someone to offer a face-saving strategy when you’re in a jam?

Well, now you can, pro bono, courtesy of Olivia Pope (Scandal), Eli Gold (The Good Wife), Don Draper (Mad Men) and Kris Jenner (Keeping Up With The Kardashians).

If your outfit is loud, no one will hear what you’re saying. – Olivia Pope

On TV: Pope’s colleague is squaring off with other pundits on a television show and during the commercial break, Olivia calls his cell: “You’re wearing pinstripes in prime time?” She’s dizzy from watching the lines in his tie vibrate.

Application: If you love vintage, say, then wear a broach on your black jacket, not a whole ensemble like a character on Boardwalk Empire. When you say “Any questions?” at the end of your business presentation the last thing you want to hear is, “Yes, where’d you get that blouse?”


This never happened. – Don Draper

On TV: He sits by the bedside of his protégé Peggy, who has just given birth to – then given up for adoption – their colleague’s illegitimate child. As her teary eyes look into his as though to ask “What now?”, Draper utters the cure-all phrase that has allowed him to start fresh many a time.

Application: What one-night stand? Today is the first day of the rest of your life.


There’s no denying it happened, so hold your head up and own it. – Kris Jenner

On TV: “She said I would be covered with artwork on top of me,” cries Kim, referring to a fashion spread that has her nude body airbrushed with metallic paint. But even private parts sprayed silver still look like, well, private parts. In the end, she takes her mother’s advice, and a deep breath, and announces: “It wasn’t what I planned on, but I have to admit they’re beautiful pictures.”

Application: When that compromising shot of you surfaces on Facebook, admit: “It’s not my most flattering photo, but it was a fun night with great friends.”


Just answer what’s asked of you. – Olivia Pope

On TV: While prepping a client to testify, Pope asks him a direct question then sits stone-faced as he digresses into backstories and hypotheticals. “If you go off on a tangent you look unreliable,” she advises.

Application: When the principal inquires if you know that your child has been absent a lot, either say, “No, I’ll look into it,” or “Yes, I’m handling it.” If more explanation is asked for, then say: “The divorce has been difficult on everyone.” Don’t offer your life story beginning with, “Well, I got married young…”


Keep insisting that there’s no story. – Eli Gold

On TV: Once again Alicia must prove she’s The Good Wife because once again Peter is being accused of cheating. Though evidence proves otherwise, the media still runs “Rumor has it…” reports. Eli’s response: “I can’t comment on something that didn’t happen.” With no new information, the story dies.

Application: Every now and then the water cooler gossip turns on the best of us. Stay calm and say, “That’s a good story but not a true one. Sorry I can’t help you.”


Control the narrative by releasing the damaging info before your adversary. – Olivia Pope

On TV: Her politician client gets caught with his pants down – on video. Olivia lets it go viral first, sets up a press conference where the senator confesses that embarrassingly enough it was him, but adds that what they should be covering is the bill he was trying to pass in Congress.

Application: Before your co-worker can squeal to the boss that you left early or emailed the documents after the deadline, tell her yourself. If your colleague keeps harping on it, remind everyone: “A mistake was made, but it was rectified. What we should be talking about is ‘next steps’.”


It’s handled. – Olivia Pope

On TV: Her go-to response in just about every episode, whether she’s arranging a press event or representing a client on trial for murder.   

Application: The boss wants it and wants it now. So while others panic, say “impossible” or stand frozen but for their quivering lips, utter those two magic words – you will sound confident, and look competent.


People love a visual. – Eli Gold

On TV: “Get me a list of any organizations giving out an award this season. I don’t care if it’s the Knitting Needlers of America,” he says when one of his client’s opponents is being lauded. “I need a visual.”

Application: Right out of the picture=thousand words playbook. Find a place on your desk for a professional award (you’re a leader in the field), extracurricular trophy (you play hard, you must work hard, too), a photo of you shaking hands with the President or a celeb (you run with an influential crowd) and a picture of your family (you’re stable and dependable). You are who you show them you are.


Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novel FAT CHICK and a freelance writer in NYC. Follow her on Twitter @FatChickAuthor.

What one-night stand? Today is the first day of the rest of your life.Lorraine Duffy Merkl

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