PR Portrayals in Entertainment: True Blood’s “Nan Flanagan”

[Warning: Spoiler Alert]

One of the most fascinating portrayals of a public relations professional in modern entertainment has to be the character “Nan Flanagan” on HBO’s “True Blood” (played to an exquisite “T” by actress Jessica Tuck).

For the uninitiated (if there are any), “True Blood” is an HBO series that presents a fictionalized present-day in which  the creation of synthetic blood has enabled vampires to “come out” to human beings.  In this world, public sentiment about “Vampers” mirrors that of the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender community, and vampires are in the midst of a civil rights movement.  The show was created by Alan Ball and based on the “Sookie Stackhouse” books.

American Vampire League Website Screen Capture

Flanagan is the media spokesperson and strategic counsel for the “American Vampire League,” a fictional civil rights group featured on the show.  In addition, she is also the strategic counsel and representative for “The Authority” (the shadowy vampire oligarchy that governs the vampire world).

What has been interesting to see as the series has evolved is that Nan is not only the on-camera spokesperson for the AVL, she also is the strategic counsel and mouthpiece for “The Authority” (not exactly a wise move from a PR perspective given the radically transparent world we live in; eventually all worlds bleed together – no pun intended).

The AVL's Nan Flanagan When She's Off-Camera (Flanked by "Authority" Sentries)
The AVL's Nan Flanagan When She's Off-Camera (Flanked by "Authority" Sentries)

There are a lot of interesting examples of positioning and messaging peppered throughout the show (much of which unfolds in the public eye on TV shows that closely resemble the sort that hash out current events):

“We’re citizens. We pay taxes. We deserve basic civil rights just like everyone else.”
– Nan Flanagan (True Blood)

As is becoming common with more and more TV shows and movies that create fictional worlds, HBO has produced a variety of content peripheral to the series (websites, products and video) that extends the storyline.  Nan Flanagan, for example, has profiles on Facebook and MySpace and (a PR essential)Twitter account.

Here, Flanagan appears on a fictional political talking head show to debate a member of congress opposed to the Vampire Rights Amendment (that blends many of today’s  current political memes into the fictional dialog about equal rights for vampires):

A Nan Flanagan Linkedin profile would be a great way to give the character’s bio (unfortunately there isn’t one; I checked).  I’m dying to know where she did her undergraduate study.

Another series of videos (published to YouTube by the fictional vampire news network “BloodCopy” – part of Gawker, naturally) features Flanagan as the spokesperson for the AVL talking about the organization’s campaign and strategy and presenting the AVL’s position and key messages on a variety of topics:

Steve Newlin: [over the TV] “It’s a beautiful sunny morning in America, Ms. Flanagan. I wish you were here.”
Nan Flanagan: [tartly] “Give me twelve hours, Reverand Newlin. I’ll be right there.”

In a spectacular example of crisis communications Flanagan is forced to respond on behalf of the vampire world after Russell Edgington, the King of Louisiana, (one of the many supernaturals unhappy with being outed) rips the spine out of a human newsreader covering a story on the Vampire Rights Amendment (which HAD been on its way to being ratified).  Just watch (NSFW):

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