Inside Undercover Boss, what our PR firm learned

By Jason Mudd

IMG_0369Earlier this year, our client Shoppers World, a retail discount department store with 40 locations in 11 states, appeared on Undercover Boss.

The CEO, Sam Dushey, wanted to go on Undercover Boss to examine the inside of his operation as he works to expand to 500 stores nationwide.

IMG_0661Many people want to be on the show. It’s not easy to qualify, but if you come close to the show’s criteria, the casting representatives are actively seeking companies and bosses to feature.

About Undercover Boss

Now in its seventh season, Undercover Boss is a reality TV series that follows high-level executives as they slip anonymously into the rank-and-file of their own organizations. Each week, a different leader sacrifices the comfort of his or her corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings their operation. The show attracts 8 million viewers across the United States.

What are the criteria to appear on Undercover Boss?

To get on Undercover Boss you need to:

  1. Be a high-level executive, C-level preferred.
  2. Be at a company with at least $250 million in annual revenue.
  3. Be at a company with approximately 1,000 employees.
  4. Commit to 8-10 days of filming and production over two different time periods.
  5. Agree to invest approximately $200,000 in total “rewards” for up to five employees during the final reveal and reward segment.

Should I apply?

Over the years, we’ve recommended several of our clients to Undercover Boss. It’s not a fit for every company, but for the ideal candidates, it’s a worthwhile experience. Almost every boss who completed the process experienced incredible insight, favorable feedback and public perception—as well as a boost in sales and brand recognition. Nearly every boss highly recommends it.

It’s a serious commitment

Individuals participating on Undercover Boss typically spend 12-14 hours per day working on the show, plus travel. From hair, makeup and costume to shooting during an approximately eight-hour shift and then recording behind the scenes commentary before and after the undercover job, it’s a huge commitment.

There’s more work to do

Beyond the commitment of time, money and other resources, Undercover Boss participants will want to take advantage of the great opportunity to communicate their undercover experience to their customers, employees, shareholders, industry, community and coordinating media.

In advance of the episode premiere, we connected our client with business, retail and department store media, as well as the media where our client had local stores—stores that were featured in the episode and stores that were not. We also prepared a social media strategy to promote the episode to existing fans and to others on social media.

During the episode, our client visited four of his 40 stores. In a short timeline, we pitched media contacts in all four cities about the CEO going on the show and lessons he learned from the experience. In less than a month, we captured more than 160 media clips, including securing media coverage in Chain Store Age and Chief Executive.

When the episode aired, our team was on hand to handle social media—live—throughout the East Coast and West Coast premieres. This included posting live to Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter during the episode and interacting with and responding to viewers commenting on the show.

Isn’t Undercover Boss fake?

IMG_0520Undercover Boss isn’t fake. It’s real. With the exception of a few inside tips and techniques that we’ve learned over the years, the participating boss and company have very little control over the production. They watch the episode for the first time themselves when eight million other Americans tune in to the show.

How do the employees not recognize the boss?

The show’s producers have conceptualized several proprietary techniques to ensure that the boss has a good chance of going unrecognized. In some episodes, family members don’t even recognize the boss while he or she is undercover.

Undercover Boss is casting for its 2016 season

If you are a top executive at a company that meets the qualifications, we’d be happy to consult with you about Undercover Boss, and if agreeable, we are available for hire to help make that introduction and casting pitch.


Jjason muddason Mudd is CEO of Axia Public Relations, a PR firm working nationwide with branch offices in downtown Jacksonville, Fla. He is an accredited public relations practitioner, speaker, author and entrepreneur. His PR portfolio includes work for medium and large corporations including American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort and Verizon.

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