The 7 Best Documentaries on Public Relations

Here are the best documentaries I’ve found on P.R.


1) The Persuaders

Alright, let’s dive into “The Persuaders” like we’re breaking down the latest Super Bowl ads.

This Frontline doc classic is like the coach’s playbook of the marketing and public relations world – and it’s a page-turner.

First up, emotional branding. It’s not just about what you’re buying; it’s about how it makes you feel.

Think Coca-Cola or Apple. They’re not selling drinks or gadgets; they’re peddling happiness and cool. It’s like your can of soda is a ticket to the cool kids’ table.

Then, there’s Song Airlines. Remember them?

They tried to turn a boring flight into the hippest place above 30,000 feet. It’s like they wanted to be the Airbnb of airlines – not just a seat on a plane, but a whole ‘fly in style’ experience.

Political marketing gets the spotlight too.

The 2004 presidential campaigns were more like a branding war than a political race. It’s like your candidate isn’t just a guy with policies; he’s a lifestyle choice, a pair of Nikes for your political feet.

And let’s talk about Clotaire Rapaille. This guy is the Freud of branding, digging into our ‘reptilian brains’ to figure out why we buy what we buy.

It’s like he’s not just reading consumers’ minds; he’s reading their instincts.

Data mining and focus groups? That’s the secret sauce.

It’s like they’re not just selling stuff; they’re crafting a personalized commercial just for you, based on your own data. It’s part marketing, part Big Brother.

So, “The Persuaders”? It’s not just a documentary; it’s a reality check.

It shows you’re not just a consumer; you’re the target of the most sophisticated persuasion machine ever created through public relations tactics.

Next time you feel the urge to buy something, remember, it might just be the reptilian part of your brain talking, egged on by some marketing genius.

Watch “The Persuaders” for free on YouTube at

The Century of the Self

“The Century of the Self” is a wake-up call wrapped in a history lesson inside a psychological thriller.

Imagine going on a mind-bending LSD trip through the last hundred years, minus the weird side effects.

Adam Curtis? The guy’s a wizard with archival footage. He digs up stuff that’ll make you go, “Whoa, did that really happen?”

This doc dives into how Freud’s ideas on human nature shaped the 20th century and gave birth to modern public relations.

Sounds heavy?

It is, but stick with me.

It’s like discovering your brain has been on a hundred-year shopping spree, egged on by clever PR strategies.

Freud’s nephew, Bernays? This guy basically invents public relations.

He’s like the godfather of influencing. (You can bet Dr. Cialdini loves him.)

Curtis takes us on a wild ride, from cigarette ads targeting women’s liberation (yikes) to politicians using focus groups to craft messages that hit our deepest desires and fears.

It’s like realizing the Matrix is real, but instead of Keanu Reeves, you’ve got Sigmund Freud and a bunch of PR execs.

The style? Classic Curtis.

Rapid-fire images, a haunting soundtrack, and a narrative that connects dots you didn’t even know existed.

It’s like your history teacher suddenly became the most interesting person in the room.

It’s not just a documentary; it’s a mirror showing us how our desires have been shaped and sold back to us through sophisticated public relations tactics.

Watch it, and you’ll never look at a billboard the same way again. Trust me, it’s a trip.

“The Century of the Self” is divided into four parts, each approximately one hour long, making the total runtime around four hours.

Watch it for free on YouTube here:

Watch it for free on YouTube here:

  • “Happiness Machines” – Part 1 focuses on the work of Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, and his application of psychoanalysis to the field of advertising, effectively turning products into symbols of desire and fulfillment.
  • “The Engineering of Consent” – Part 2 examines how Freud’s theories were used to understand and influence the masses, particularly in politics and marketing. It delves into the concept of influencing public opinion and the rise of political and product marketing based on subconscious desires.
  • “There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed” – Part 3 explores the shift in the 1960s towards a more individualistic society and how businesses and politicians adapted to this change by creating new ways to satisfy the desires of the self.
  • “Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering” – Part 4 looks at the consequences of treating people as individualistic beings driven by desires, examining the impact on politics and social structure, and questioning the sustainability of a society driven by consumerism and self-gratification.

If those links don’t work for ya, someone uploaded the full doc on YouTube here:

Note to UKers. I’m American. But it looks like this doc (or docco as some of you across the pond call it) is available in the U.K. via Sky.

3) The Occupation of the American Mind

“The Occupation of the American Mind,” a 2016 documentary that’s as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face. But hey, sometimes you need a good whack to wake up, right?

This film is like a giant red pill for your brain, exposing how pro-Israel propaganda has hijacked the American media and political system. It’s a wild ride through the looking glass, where up is down, left is right, and the truth is buried under a mountain of spin.

The directors, Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp, are like a pair of intellectual bulldogs, digging up dirt and connecting the dots. They’ve got a roster of heavy-hitters, from Noam Chomsky to Norman Finkelstein, dropping truth bombs left and right.

And Roger Waters (yes, Mr. Pink Floyd himself!) narrates!

This doc isn’t just about Israel and Palestine. It’s about how public relations can be used to manipulate our minds and shape our reality. It’s like finding out that the Matrix is real, but instead of evil robots, we’ve got slick PR firms and lobby groups pulling the strings.

The film takes you on a whirlwind tour of history, from the Six-Day War to the present day, showing how Israel’s image has been carefully crafted and maintained. It’s like watching a master class in PR, but instead of feeling inspired, you’ll feel like you’ve been had.

But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. The film also highlights the brave voices speaking out against the propaganda machine, from journalists to activists to ordinary folks who just want the truth.

So, if you’re ready to have your mind blown and your worldview shaken, give “The Occupation of the American Mind” a watch. Just be prepared to question everything you thought you knew about the Middle East, the media, and the power of public relations. It’s a wild ride, but hey, sometimes the truth hurts.

You can watch it for free on Kanopy (with library card) at

I notice a condensed 45 minute version of the documentary here (though I haven’t watched it):

Check here for the latest places to stream it:

4) David Mirisch, The Man Behind the Golden Stars

“David Mirisch, The Man Behind the Golden Stars,” is a doc about the legendary Hollywood publicist David Mirisch.

Though he was born in the small town of Superior, Montana, he knew he was destined for bigger things. After majoring in speech communications at Ripon College, he set his sights on Tinseltown and never looked back.

David had showbiz in his blood.

His family founded the Mirisch Film Company, responsible for classics like “Some Like It Hot” (1959), “West Side Story” (1961), and “The Magnificent Seven” (1960)/

But he didn’t just rest on his family’s laurels – he carved out his own niche as the go-to guy for Hollywood’s elite.

Over his 50-year career, Mirisch discovered and shaped the careers of some of the most iconic actresses of the era. In 1968, he plucked Farrah Fawcett from obscurity while she was still hitting the books at the University of Texas.

He also worked his magic on Barbara Hershey, Raquel Welch, Ellen Burstyn, Lynda Carter, Barbara Eden, and Lindsay Wagner, turning them into household names.

But Mirisch didn’t just focus on the silver screen. He was the mastermind behind PR campaigns for music legends like Johnny Mathis, Pat Boone, The Fifth Dimension, Perry Como, Merv Griffin, Della Reese, and Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass.

And when it came to throwing parties, Mirisch was the king. He organized lavish soirées for the likes of basketball giant Wilt Chamberlain, making sure everyone who was anyone was on the guest list.

But Mirisch wasn’t just about the glitz and glamour. He used his connections to raise a whopping $35 million for over 2,500 fundraising events, helping nonprofits across the U.S. and in seven countries around the world.

It’s directed by Marcela Mariz and co-produced by Monarca Group and Shorebird Productions.

This 84-minute doc is packed with juicy interviews from David Mirisch himself, along with Dionne Warwick, Robert Wagner, Joe Mantegna, Johnny Mathis, and Pat Boone.

They spill the beans on what it really took to create a star during Hollywood’s golden age.

And the crucial role publicists played in making it all happen.

Watch it for free on YouTube here:

Check here for the other streaming options (though I don’t see the free YouTube link here!):

5) The War You Don’t See

“The War You Don’t See” like it’s the ultimate exposé on the PR strategies of wartime governments.

This 2010 documentary by John Pilger is like a masterclass in media manipulation – and it’s a jaw-dropper.

First up, government spin. It’s not just about reporting the news; it’s about crafting a narrative.

Think back to the lead-up to the Iraq War. We weren’t just getting facts; we were being fed a meticulously crafted story. It’s like the news networks turned into PR firms, selling the war as a necessary and heroic endeavor.

Then, there’s embedded journalism. Remember those reporters embedded with troops?

It’s like they were given backstage passes to the warzone but with conditions attached. The military provided access, but at the expense of objectivity. It’s like covering a high-stakes concert from the tour bus – you see a lot, but only what the band wants you to see.

Public relations is at the heart of this film.

Governments and military leaders acted more like savvy PR executives than public servants. They used press briefings and photo ops to control the narrative. It’s like the Pentagon was orchestrating a nonstop PR campaign, transforming war into a digestible, sanitized story for the masses.

And let’s not forget the spin doctors. These PR maestros crafted narratives that tapped into our deepest fears and patriotic fervor.

It’s like they were psychological strategists, manipulating public sentiment with surgical precision. They weren’t merely informing; they were persuading, turning doubt into support with well-placed soundbites and emotional triggers.

Information control and data manipulation? That’s their ace in the hole.

It’s like they weren’t just managing the news; they were controlling the very flow of information. It’s part journalism, part propaganda machine.

So, “The War You Don’t See”? It’s not just a documentary; it’s a wake-up call.

It shows you’re not just a passive viewer; you’re the target of a sophisticated PR campaign by governments and military institutions.

Next time you watch the news, remember, it might just be a crafted story designed to shape your perceptions, driven by some of the most adept PR minds out there.

You can watch the full documentary for free on YouTube here:

6) Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media

“Manufacturing Consent,” the 1992 documentary by Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick, is a riveting deep dive into media manipulation and public relations.

Starring Noam Chomsky, MIT professor and political activist, this doc unpacks his “propaganda model.” Chomsky argues that the media serves the powerful, filtering out dissent and shaping public opinion to fit their agenda.

Packed with case studies, the film exposes media bias, like the New York Times’ coverage of the 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor. Chomsky reveals how the Times downplayed atrocities by the U.S.-backed Indonesian military while spotlighting Khmer Rouge crimes in Cambodia.

Then there’s the Gulf War’s “incubator babies” hoax. A Kuwaiti girl testified that Iraqi soldiers threw babies out of incubators, a story later debunked. She was the Kuwaiti ambassador’s daughter, coached by PR firm Hill & Knowlton to sell the war to Americans.

Chomsky doesn’t spare the public relations industry, a key player in manufacturing consent. He highlights Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, who pioneered PR to manipulate public opinion for corporate gain. Bernays is the godfather of modern PR, crafting campaigns that shape public perception.

The film features insights from media heavyweights like Jeff Greenfield of ABC News and Bill Moyers of PBS. But Chomsky’s biting critiques and dry humor steal the show.

At 167 minutes, “Manufacturing Consent” is a marathon, but every minute is worth it. It’s a crash course in media literacy that makes you question everything from headlines to product ads.

If you want to peek behind the curtain of media manipulation, watch “Manufacturing Consent.” It’s a sobering look at our democracy and a call for a more critical, engaged citizenry.

I watched Manufacturing Consent for free on Kanopy (with library card) at

Or you can check here for other streaming options:

7) When Louis Met… Max Clifford

You know those moments when you’re binge-watching some old BBC docs and stumble upon a gem that feels like finding a $20 bill in your coat pocket?

That’s what it feels like watching the 2002 BBC Two documentary When Louis Met… Max Clifford. Directed by Alicia Kerr and written by Louis Theroux, this 50-minute flick is like a crash course in the seedy underbelly of tabloid journalism, starring the king of PR manipulation himself, Max Clifford.

Louis Theroux, our endearing and slightly awkward tour guide, sits down with Clifford, an English publicist notorious for peddling “kiss and tell” stories.

And boy, does Clifford deliver. Imagine being so unabashedly brazen that you admit, on camera, to leaking a false story about a celebrity affair just to make a quick buck. That’s Max Clifford for you – a man with more tricks up his sleeve than a Vegas magician.

As part of Theroux’s “When Louis Met…” series, this episode peels back the curtain on a man who wielded incredible power over the British tabloids.

Clifford’s manipulative tactics and the inner workings of tabloid journalism are laid bare, and it’s as juicy as the stories he used to sell.

You see Clifford juggling scandals and PR disasters, even working on a project involving none other than Simon Cowell.

Cowell shows up again at a kids for Cancer event.

Theroux does what he does best: he humanizes his subject. Amidst the plotting and scheming, you see Clifford’s vulnerabilities and insecurities. It’s a fascinating character study that makes you almost, almost, feel a twinge of sympathy for the man.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. In 2014, Clifford was convicted of indecent assault and sentenced to eight years in prison. He died in 2017.

This documentary, filmed years before these revelations, gains a haunting significance. Watching Clifford operate with such impunity while knowing his eventual downfall adds a layer of poignancy and a shiver of retrospective disgust.

So, if you’re up for a wild ride through the glitter and gutter of fame, When Louis Met… Max Clifford is your ticket. It’s Theroux at his probing best, and Clifford at his most unguarded – a true behind-the-scenes look at the making and breaking of celebrity reputations.

Trust me, after this, you’ll never look at a tabloid the same way again.

I watched When Loius Met…Max Clifford for free on Daily Motion (video embed above or here:

If that doesn’t work, check out here for other streaming options; (although there was nothing there last time I checked).

Public Relations Documentaries on Netflix

I don’t see any documentaries specifically on public relations on Netflix right now (last I checked is June 11, 2024)

The closest PR doc I do see on Netflix is “Get Me Roger Stone”.

Some PR aspects of this doc include:

  • Image Crafting: Stone helps shape the image of Donald Trump, positioning him as a strong, decisive leader.
  • Media Manipulation: He orchestrates media stunts for Richard Nixon, creating memorable and controversial moments to gain attention.
  • Crisis Management: Stone advises Paul Manafort during various scandals, helping manage public perception and fallout.
  • Messaging: He crafts persuasive messages for Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, focusing on strong anti-communism rhetoric.
  • Branding: Stone works on branding for George H.W. Bush, presenting him as a continuation of Reagan’s policies and legacy.

Here’s the trailer.

You can watch “Get Me Roger Stone” on Netflix at

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac of Daily Doc