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What Succession Gets Right (and Wrong) about Communications

By Allison Braley for PRNews

The role of a communications professional in pop culture is often reduced to a “fixer” who goes as far as hiding bodies (see: “Scandal“), a glorified party planner (see: “Sex and the City” or “The Hills”), or most commonly, a nameless, harried, go-between shouting “no comment” into an open mic. If you’re reading this and those characters feel like they represent your role, you are in the minority.

HBO’s “Succession” places corporate communications and its practitioners at the strategic center for the Waystar Royco company and its various executives. While there are many outlandish plot lines on “Succession,” from the hapless cousin Greg’s rise to power, to CEO Logan Roy dying while fishing his phone out of a private jet’s toilet, the role of comms is one area where the writers have stayed fairly faithful to reality, simply by taking the job seriously.

As the award-winning show closes out its final season, it’s interesting to reflect on its representation of the communications industry.

The “Succession” Take on Internal and External Comms

Internal communications has been a focus on the show with beleaguered daughter Shiv Roy’s failed attempts to rally employees with a speech, and patriarch Logan’s successful appeal to the “pirates” of news channel ATN. In recent years, PR has focused quite a bit of time in this area, and it will continue to be center stage in the age of AI and continued focus on workers’ rights.

The high-leverage work of shaping the external narrative and building consensus comes through in comms chief Karolina’s subtle, yet effective, way of advising executives. Whether she’s managing a crisis and crafting statements or planning which Roy to put forward in a given situation, her role represents the closest representation of corporate comms that I’ve seen, though I hope no one out there ever has to work in an environment as Chernobyl-level toxic as Waystar Royco.

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