Olivia Pope may be one of the most well-known crisis communicators, although she is a fictional character within the ABC drama “Scandal.” While we shouldn’t follow all of Olivia’s examples when we face a public relations crisis, there are elements that practitioners can use to improve their crisis management strategies.
1. Always be in the know.
Do your research. Whenever she takes on a client, Olivia Pope understands the need to know everything about them. As public relations practitioners, we need to understand every part of our organization, and every part of a crisis situation, to effectively communicate it to the media and outside publics. We also need to understand what is going on outside of our organization and in the news. It will better prepare you to promote your organization, and will help you understand the media when a crisis occurs.
2. Know your team.
Pope’s team of gladiators each have different strengths and weaknesses that they use to their advantage. Like the Oliva Pope and Associates team, as public relations practitioners, we need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of our team members. Knowing the strengths, weaknesses and personalities of your team members can help you be more effective as a team, as you will know what each person is capable of.
3. Be confident.
In the midst of most situations, Olivia remains calm and knows exactly what needs to be done to help her client. While some of her methods are not exactly legal, she believes that she is making the right decision, and she does so without hesitation. In public relations and crisis communications, we need to be confident in the messages that we are responsible for crafting. If we know our organization and our goals, we should be confident in achieving them.
4. Dig out your white hat.
Throughout the series, Pope and her associates struggle with wearing their “white hats.” They know the right thing to do, but sometimes it goes against their clients, or it puts them in some sort of danger. In public relations, we need to wear our white hats all the time. We need to be transparent and ethical in everything that we do, as we are often the voices of our organizations. In crisis communications specifically, we need to wear our white hats and have integrity to communicate what went wrong and how we are going to fix it.
5. Know the media.
Olivia and her team know exactly how the media works. Understanding the media can help you prepare your spokesperson for questions. Knowing deadlines and creating relationships with the media can help public relations practitioners effectively communicate their organization’s messages, especially in a crisis.
Gabrielle Coy is a sophomore public relations major at Waynesburg University. She serves as the social media coordinator for Waynesburg PRSSA, as well as a project manager for Red Brick Communications. After graduation, Gabrielle hopes to pursue her passions within the public relations field and work within the nonprofit or crisis communication sector.