I've been recently catching up on this show "Undercover Boss" and have to say a more brilliant piece of public relations I have yet to see! The idea behind this reality show is that each week, a large company will send its CEO undercover (with disguises, fake names, etc.) to work each day at an entry level job at some part of the company to get an idea of what the bottom level employees go through and what's on their minds. The excuse for the camera crews following them around is that there's a documentary being filmed about entry level jobs, so the hope is that the CEO then gets a better sense of the challenges facing their workers and can improve the company with this new perspective. Brilliant, eh?
It seems to follow a very set formula--the boss fails miserably at each entry-level task, looking foolish on the camera and demonstrating just how much better the day-to-day employees really are. (I think the bosses sort of intentionally screw up--the show would go very badly if the boss was excellent at working a lathe, for instance, and then comments "hey, this is easier than they make it look! Why am I paying my people so much???") The boss (in the guise of a "new guy") also chats with the employees, finds out what makes them tick (one may have financial difficulties, a bad back, or overcome some other disability), and we get to see the boss feeling bad about what their people have to go through. In the end, he (so far, it's always a "he") reveals himself to the employees, talks about what he's learned, and explains how he's going to improve, and usually does something nice for the individual employees he worked with (a vacation, a promotion, etc.). (In some cases, a boss will catch an employee being rude to customers and staff, and have to chew them out in the end, but this is rare).
The brilliant PR part of it? An hour episode of free advertising for the company, making the boss and the employees look like good people doing good work (the cameras never catch anyone doing a half-assed job or stealing, obviously). I'd say it'd be nuts for any company NOT to go on this show.
Of course, the formula will get old quick, so I can see some ways to spice it up:
1) Undercover Crime Boss. See what happens when the Godfather of the Gambino Fambly decides to see just how hard his hired goons have to work, muscling in on local retailers.
2) Undercover President. See Obama pretend to be an entry level staffer at the Department of Energy, and find out the waste and corruption that needs to be fixed.
3) Undercover Bad Boss. See the boss find out how much life sucks for his employee with too many mouths to feed--and then decide to fix it by kidnapping the extra kids.