At the beginning of the film “12 Men of Christmas,” E.J. Baxter (portrayed by Kristen Chenoweth) is a public relations executive living the perfect life. Gendered public relations stereotypes notwithstanding—E.J. is a 30-something single at a high-powered New York City agency who simultaneously loses her job and fiancee—the movie contains compelling representations of the field.
Below are four lessons viewers can learn from this fictional public relations character:
1) She knows her worth
The film suggests E.J. Baxter has a well-earned reputation as a stellar public relations professional. She provides research-driven counsel to attract new clients; in fact, she is responsible for nearly 20 percent of new business at her former agency. E.J. nurtures her networks throughout the film, and is portrayed benefiting from those networks as well. Although she is unable to find work for several months after leaving New York City, she is unwilling to accept a position at a disreputable agency because she knows her worth.
2) She seizes opportunity
E.J. Baxter reluctantly accepts a one-year contract at the Kalispell, Montana Tourism Board. Her primary responsibility in the 19,000-population town is launching a program to establish the city as a hub for corporate retreats. Her secondary role is raising money for the Kalispell Search & Rescue team. When she learns that the Search & Rescue team funds its equipment, training, and even helicopter rental, she seizes the opportunity to expand the corporate retreat program into a fundraising venture.
3) She does her homework
It is apparent from her program pitch to the Kalispell Search & Rescue team that E.J. does her homework. She knows how much money the team typically makes during fundraising, and she knows how much money the team could raise with her new idea: A Twelve Men of Christmas calendar featuring photos of the Search & Rescue team. E.J. explains that the calendar would highlight the important work of Search & Rescue for the city while showcasing the men. Thanks to her connections with corporations (see lesson one above), calendar sponsors might also be inclined to host their corporate retreats in Kalispell.
4) She crafts her messaging
Acknowledging the unconventionality of the calendar for the town, E.J. assures the Search & Rescue team that they would be tastefully photographed and only partially nude. Whether it’s appealing to the wife of a reluctant team member or learning fly-fishing to pitch someone during a lesson, E.J. carefully crafts her message to persuade the holdouts to participate. With the Mayor, for example, she positions the calendar as the city’s opportunity to express gratitude to the Kalispell Search & Rescue Team.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) describes public relations as a high-pressure occupation occasionally involving travel. Public relations practitioners establish relationships with various publics, use communication to accomplish daily tasks, and regularly pitch ideas to clients, according to the BLS. Further, public relations practitioner responsibilities include event-planning, meetings, and community activities (BLS, 2015).
E.J. Baxter fulfills many of the descriptors the BLS applies to public relations. If you don’t mind a predictable plot, check out “12 Men of Christmas” for a fairly accurate depiction of public relations work.
—Cheryl Ann Lambert, Ph.D.