3 PR lessons we can learn from “The Briefcase”

3 PR lessons we can learn from “The Briefcase”

In May, CBS aired the first episode of their new television show, “The Briefcase,” and controversy has surrounded the show since.


“The Briefcase,” created by Dave Boome, is a reality show that films two families with financial troubles. Each family is offered $101,000 and given the option to keep the money, split the money with another family in need, or give all of it away to the other family. This causes each family to make a difficult decision.


The premise of “The Briefcase” has caused controversy after many called out the show for exploiting underprivileged families. There are a few public relations lessons we can learn from CBS and Boome’s handling of the controversy.


A briefcase full of money.

“The Briefcase” is a CBS show that offers underprivileged families $101,000 and makes them choose how to use it. (boston.cbslocal.com)

1. Comment on the controversy.

When a controversial incident first occurs, it’s best to make a statement on the subject immediately. Two episodes of “The Briefcase” have aired, and CBS has yet to respond to the negative remarks being made about the show’s exploitative nature. Had they chosen to make a public statement right away, the network could have been closer to putting out this PR fire.


2. Watch the wording.

When making a statement on a controversial topic, it’s important to watch the wording. If anything contradictory is said, the audience’s trust is broken. Boome made a statement publicly defending his show saying, “It’s not about the money. The show has very little, if anything, to do with money.”


Although there may be other aspects to the show, such as family bonds and the importance of spousal communication, there is still a big focus on the money. Saying that a show offering large sums of money to families in need has “little, if anything, to do with money” is very contradictory.


3. Respond to individual concerns.

The Internet is a powerful tool used by many to spread love or disdain for just about everything. When controversy strikes, responding to some of the concerns voiced online can help build trust and understanding. After the show’s premise caused outrage on Twitter, Boome responded to negative tweets about the show. This action may have caused more people to give the show a chance, since he took the time to defend the show on an individual level.



Public relations mistakes were made in response to the show’s controversy, but it has yet to be canceled, giving the show a chance to survive for possible redemption.


Does “The Briefcase” do more harm than good? What do you think of this show so far? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.  

Devon Karbowski

Devon Karbowski graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2015. He received a BA in Writing Studies with an emphasis in Professional Writing and a minor in Philosophy. Currently, he is using his degree to pursue a career in freelance writing, proposal writing and social media management. The focal point of his MUI PR articles will involve public relations related topics.

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