Why Ted Lasso continues to fuel false stereotypes about the PR industry

Sharon Zeev Poole, founder of Agent99 PR discusses the stereotypes of the PR industry portrayed in Ted Lasso, through the character Keely Jones.

From Mad Men, to the Morning Show, to Succession…the world loves TV shows based around the media and comms industry. However, my issue is not with these shows, but instead with a little-known comedy about football…

That’s right, I have a bone to pick with Ted Lasso.

Source: Facebook

PR often gets a bad wrap in mainstream popular culture. First, it was Samantha Jones on Sex and the City, who led a generation to believe that PR = parties, and then it was Bridget Jones whose publicity role was simply dubbed as ‘fannying about with press releases.’ And in more recent years, PR has been the target of Schitt’s Creek, when socialite Alexis decides to label herself a “freelance brand invigorator” and launches her own PR agency with zero experience and education.

The message in popular culture is clear. PR is synonymous with young, frivolous females, whom largely uneducated live under the notion that simply ‘anyone can do it!’ And sadly, this stereotype is also tragically partnered with the reality of being single, childless, and unable to balance a successful career and relationship at the same time. And it is these stereotypes that are being fuelled yet again by Ted Lasso.

As a PR agency founder who has spent the last two decades working in the industry, I would have hoped that by 2023 and all the research that goes into writing modern TV shows, that popular culture would catch up to the reality of what a career in PR actually looks like. One that showcases the blood, sweat and tears that my fellow agency founders and I have had to navigate for a long time.

But alas, along came Season 3 of Ted Lasso and I was confronted yet again with another inaccurate portrayal of my industry on the big screen. Keely Jones, played by talented British actress Juno Temple, commences Season 3 with opening her own PR agency – Keely Jones PR (KJPR). However, it’s very clear from the outset that she has no idea what she’s doing…

With each episode that drops weekly, viewers find themselves witnessing another KJPR misadventure instigated by its bold, but naïve founder, Keely. She infamously calls her CFO a “corporate flying officer” unsure of what the term actually stands for, she hires a friend instead of a qualified expert to manage her client campaigns, and she has no clue who her main business investor is.

Having founded Agent99 PR in my early 30s, there are many aspects of Keeley’s character that both resonates with me, but also fills me with anxiety about the way PR continues to be demonstrated in pop-culture. Gone are the days of wild parties and long lunches, and instead, my days, particularly since the pandemic, are filled with 9-5 strategy, deepening client relations and guiding them to success for their brand, and enhancing our staff work experience.

Until we start seeing accurate representations of Public Relations on screen, we will continue to perpetuate misunderstandings about our industry to the next generation. PR is more than just a superficial role. It takes grit, smarts, and a whole lot of agility.

Thankfully, despite the stereotypes, Ted Lasso does offer Keely a redemption arc. Here are three things I learned from watching her story unfold on screen.

True Strength comes through vulnerability 

While she has a lot of F-ups during her initial stages of founding KJPR, one thing that I adore about Keely’s character is that she was open and honest about her struggles. In Season 3 Episode 1, she hosts former boss-turned-mentor Rebecca for a lunch meeting. However, it is quickly revealed she has double-booked the lunch with her “crying time” which is a window she blocks out in her calendar to deal with the overwhelm of her job.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I too hadn’t had “crying time” over the years. But rather than sit in her distress and allow it to get the better of her, Keely relies on the wisdom and advice of a strong mentor in Rebecca and through her guidance and support, is able to bounce back quickly to setbacks.

This is a refreshing change of pace for two women in a TV show. Demonstrating strength through vulnerability is something that a lot of professional women undervalue. We’ve battled high standards, gender inequality and glass ceilings for decades, so to see in 2023 that two women can be vulnerable but still badass, is incredible.

Transparency never goes out of style

In PR, we are made out to the be the superficial ones. Networking, spinning a story, smoothing out a crisis, etc. Many PR professionals hate the thought of being disliked by their peers, so they refrain from saying the hard truths, knowing it can lead to awkwardness and contention. But again, I love that Keely defies her experience and in Season 3 Episode 2, confronts her Corporate Flying Offer and advises her to be more approachable and less judgemental on those with less experience than her.

As PR Pros, we should know that transparency never goes out of style. Even when we feel incapable or uncomfortable, we need to tell it as it is, and have the hard conversations when we need to.

Confidence can only get you so far

Keely lights up the screen for her vivaciousness and confident attitude with anyone she encounters. And often this is true of many women I meet within the PR world. But through various challenges and setbacks (like accidentally letting her staffer go rouge and give away soccer players for sex), this cheery façade of Keely’s drops and we see her having to navigate real-world crisis. Yet through it all she rises to the challenge and learns that confidence can only get you so far. She has to push herself to learn new tactics and management strategies, yet through it all she remains true to who she is at her core.

While the full season hasn’t dropped yet, it seems clear that Keely’s story arc is leading us to a better representation of women in leadership across many industries. Ted Lasso might get the PR industry wrong, but they’ve hit the nail on the head when it comes to representing the way women thrive off a challenge and are circumventing the way businesses are run all across the world.

Sharon Zeev Poole is founder of Agent99 PR. 


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.