The truths and myths of ‘PoweR Girls’

Megan Angelo

The morning after the big party looks the same at the office of Lizzie Grubman Public Relations as it does at any campus apartment – minus the hangovers. The four listless girls on the leather couch are hurting from a long night of guarding a nightclub door in stilettos, not from an evening spent knocking back drinks. Which is just as well. Had alcohol blunted their radar last night, they’d have been less likely to spot Lindsay Lohan creeping in through a side door with a coat covering her head.

Grubman, the four girls’ boss, can’t believe the actress snubbed the VIP entrance. “Who does she think she is?” she squawks.

It’s all part of the nine-to-five for Grubman and the four young publicists she calls “the faces of my company.”

“It’s like the morning after a sorority party,” she says. “We talk about who slept with who, who was flirting with who, but in this case, we get to tell the entire public what happened.”

As Grubman and her girls navigate their way from signings to soirees on MTV’s newest reality show, “PoweR Girls,” it certainly seems that college experiences matter more than a college degree in event planning. But University alumna Jen Rodgers, an event services coordinator at the nearby Roberts Event Group, says it takes a lot of thoroughly un-fabulous work to keep the party-recover-repeat cycle in motion. Below, she separates “PoweR Girls” myths from PR truths.

Q. The show made a big deal out of guarding the door, preparing guest lists and contacting media outlets, but what kind of other nitty-gritty preparation has to be done before a big event?

Rodgers: Before big events you need to make sure that everything is in place to go flawlessly. For example, you need to have a handler off to the side in case a VIP decides they want to leave early, to alert the driver to pull the car around to the no-waiting zone as if they’ve been there all night. It’s all a matter of details. Planning an event is similar to writing a paper for any one of your classes. You start with a topic or a general idea of what you want to plan, and then by the end it’s extremely focused and precise.

Q. Can you shed some light on the salaries of entry-level publicists?

Rodgers: There are a lot of people who want your job, and since it takes more natural ability than trained ability, there are a lot of people out there who can do your job. The thing to keep in mind is that your career track is unpredictable. You could be making decent money in a short amount of time if you prove yourself.

Q. At Grubman PR, the girls walk around in jeans and sweats. Is this true-to-life office attire?

Rodgers: Well, personally, I don’t do sweatpants – not often, anyway. The office atmosphere is very casual in attire. I dress up when at events or with clients, but when it’s just our office internally, we’re pretty laid back about what we wear.

Q. It’s hard to tell what kind of hours these girls have.

Rodgers: Event planning is similar to many other service industries. It’s either feast or famine. In the busy months, you’re making great money, but you are working morning, noon, night and weekends. In slower months, you catch up with your friends, and hopefully you’ve saved some of your money from the busy times. Each company is different, but my job requires me to be in the office 40 hours every week, and then my events require additional time based on the specifics of the individual events.

Q. What is the competition for a job in event planning like?

Rodgers: The industry is surprisingly small. I think a lot of people don’t make it past the application process because they don’t have any real event or volunteer experience, and the others don’t make it past the interview process because they don’t seem to have the personality to fit the job.

Q. Do you feel that your career has a reputation of being fabulous?

Rodgers: I think the career is fabulous. I think people glamorize it at times, a la Jennifer Lopez in “The Wedding Planner,” but all in all, I think it’s pretty cool to get paid to plan and attend events.

Q. The girls on the show look very “MTV-friendly.” How much does personal appearance have to do with getting a job in PR? And, by the way, are there any guys in this profession?

Rodgers: There are men in our company, but I would say they’re in the minority. I think appearance matters as much in this industry as in any industry, although I wouldn’t say a majority of people are “MTV-friendly.”

Q. The big event the first episode of “PoweR Girls” focused on was a club opening run entirely by Rachel, who seems to be pretty young. Is this realistic?

Rodgers: Yep. It’s a small industry. I am only 25 and have tons of events that I have participated in.

Q. Grubman and all of the publicists constantly echo that the number-one rule of PR is to never lose your cool. How important do you think that is?

Rodgers: You have to remember to realize what’s in your control and what’s not, and what’s the best situation and what’s the worst. You have to have backup plans on a whim and know that the client is relying on you to be able to fix situations on site. I think when working in this type of industry it’s important to work as a team, a strong team, unified with vendors and staff. You get more done by talking things out than with finger-pointing.

“PoweR Girls”airs Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. on MTV.