What Would Judy Do?: Top of the Hour

By Judy A. Smith | Mar 21st, 2013

Olivia Pope, Abby Whelan and Harrison WrightThis week’s thriller does an excellent job of walking the audience through some of the steps that I’ve experienced dealing with high profile crises. I or anyone with my Company may get a call at anytime of day or night. When a crisis breaks you have to act quickly to have any hope of trying to contain it. My job is not a nine to five one which is why we see Olivia drop everything and rush off. In this episode, the maelstrom of media surrounding her new client’s house is typical of anything that screams scandal when dealing with public figures. I have many times, as Olivia does, stayed around the clock with my clients in order to fend off the press and control statements by my clients or members of their family. When Olivia arrives she immediately takes over which is what I have to do when I walk into a situation. There is a need for organization and when the client is as rocked as the Stanner family in the show it is absolutely necessary to assume command for efficiency purposes as well as to comfort clients that are overwhelmed. If you notice, Olivia doesn’t waste time with small talk; she jumps right in and tells Sarah to tell her how much of what is out there is true. Although I certainly know how to be diplomatic there are times when you don’t have the time and you have to ask the hard questions no matter how awkward it may be for you or your client. It is also not unusual for clients sometime to hold back information. Thus, frequently my job is made harder when information I wasn’t aware of is discovered and reported, such as Sarah having continued the affair past the time she said.

And yes there are certainly tricks of the trade such as when to release information in regards to the news cycle. I have even recollected garbage as Harrison does when they arrive at the Stanners'. However, in a situation such as this week, providing emotional support is often my biggest role. And while that may not technically be written in the job description it is an inevitable part of the job and it can be uncomfortable when you have to tell your clients what they may not want to hear, or do what they don’t want to do. When you are viewing persons at maybe the worst time in their lives and they are obviously in pain, fear, or depression you cannot help but empathize with them. At the time, they are in need of support as much as anything else.

As highlighted in this episode betrayal can wreck any relationship, work, social, familial. Forgiving is hard and the guilty party has to understand this, but it is not impossible. It takes time and if the relationship is a functional one, for it to continue a certain amount of acceptance is necessary. However, almost always that relationship will never be the same despite its functionality. Still, as I always tell everyone, we all make mistakes; maybe not the same ones but mistakes nonetheless; realizing that is a basic tenant in forgiveness and remember it is equally as hard to forgive as it is to admit to having done wrong.

Judy A. Smith is the founder and President of Smith and Company, a leading strategic and crisis communications firm with offices in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles as well as a Co-Executive Producer of ABC's Scandal. You can follow her on Twitter (@JudySmith_) or "Like" her on Facebook, and you can get more information about managing personal and professional crisis situations by visiting her site,