How the Real Olivia Pope Would Handle a Work Crisis

Jessica Schiffer

By now, everyone knows the name Olivia Pope, but most people are less familiar with the real woman who inspired the Scandal character: Judy Smith, the founder, president and CEO of a crisis communications firm called Smith & Co. Having worked on major cases including the Sony hack and President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, Smith knows a thing or two about how to clean up a mess and carry on with your best foot forward. Last week, while speaking at a conference of high profile thought leaders and executives, Smith shared some great advice on using social media for crisis management in your career:

“[Social media is] a game changer. Things move much faster and decisions come earlier. Before, there was a tighter environment to control the perception of your company or of yourself. That is becoming increasingly difficult. The advice I give my clients is to be aware of all these mediums that are out there and use them wisely... A good leader has to take a minute to pause before they execute. Once you put something out, you can’t take it back.

You just can't react immediately because the attention is constant. [You shouldn’t] be pressured to respond just for the sake of responding. [You have to ask yourself,] what are you trying to accomplish by what you are responding to? Does it actually say what you want to say? I think a lot of times people are responding without knowing the key facts to the issue. Then later on, when they try and clean it up, [other] people think they weren't transparent or authentic when they gave the first information. That is a big problem.”

Though Smith’s advice may be directed at those who are at the top of their fields, her point is equally important for anyone just starting out. The takeaways? The Internet may pride itself on speed, but when that pace is applied to social media (especially in matters of crisis management) you're likely to put yourself at risk for a career setback that you might regret. So, don’t let loose online, there are usually consequences, and think twice, or thrice, about the message you want to get across, rather than sending something out quickly just to fill the void. Just think of it as being your very own Olivia Pope.


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