Everybody Loves a Scandal: 5 Crisis Communications Tips from ABC’s Political Drama

Topics: Public Relations


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5 Crisis Communications Tips You Can Learn From ABC’s Scandal

By Krystal Tingle, Senior Account Executive

Anyone who knows me can attest that other than news and NBA playoffs, I am not a huge TV watcher. Now, thanks to Grey’s Anatomy creator, Shonda Rhimes, ABC’s newest political drama, “Scandal,” is my guilty pleasure. I am literally counting down the hours until Thursday’s season finale. “Scandal” stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, Washington D.C.’s biggest fixer. Pope is a crisis communications phenom inspired by the career of Judy Smith, former deputy press secretary in George H. W. Bush’s White House and a consultant in high-profile cases like Monica Lewinsky. The fast-paced, sexy political drama is not only entertaining; it can teach you a thing or two about how to handle a crisis.

1)      Bring It On!: Whether you represent a political figure or an automobile manufacturer, in the world of a “fixer” a crisis can strike at anytime. The worst thing is to be blindsided by a scandal so big, it causes you to drown in the wake. It’s your job to anticipate crises before they happen. Planning, research and walking through mock-crises are great methods of damage control.

2)      Dream Team: Even if you are a top notch fixer like Olivia Pope on “Scandal”, you still need a team. The best crisis communications pros surround themselves with a skilled team of diverse expertise. A good mix of media training, law and ethics, politicos or experts in your field can create a winning action plan.

3)      Know Your Audience: When responding to a crisis, you want to answer looming questions. Getting into the minds of your stakeholders and publics will allow you to prepare for pending questions; sometimes answering them before they are even asked.

4)      Grace Under Pressure:  The pressure that comes along with handling a high profile crisis can create a chaotic environment. Keeping a cool, confident demeanor and trusting yourself will help things go more smoothly. Remember, this is your client’s crisis. They are depending on you to be the calm in the middle of their storm.

5)      Dig in the Crates: It’s been said, experience is the best teacher. Don’t forget the mistakes you’ve made in the past and the battles won. There is a lesson in every crisis that can ensure success in the future.

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