If I had a dollar for every time a friend has asked me if my job is anything like public relations extraordinaire Olivia Pope’s in ABC’s show Scandal, I’d be able to afford her much-coveted wardrobe. (Although luckily, there’s now The Limited’s Scandal-inspired clothing line.) While there’s much to be said for the show’s depiction of the ever-changing, exciting and high-stress PR environment, it’s not quite the glamour, the, well, scandal, or the life-or-death scenarios that it often portrays. But in light of the show’s premiere of its fourth season tonight (the whole team is literally counting down to 8 p.m.) here are five PR lessons to be learned from Olivia Pope:
1. Dress for success.
Whether she’s lounging at home or leading a presidential campaign meeting, Olivia is always dressed like she’s ready to take on the world. In the realm of public relations, you never know when you’ll run into a client or meet a potential new one. Olivia’s wardrobe is full of staples: statement jackets, nice dress pants and killer heels—something every PR woman needs.
2. Value your relationships.
Olivia Pope is the best at what she does, it wouldn’t be possible without the support and help of her “gladiators” and other connections. Think about how many times she had to convince U.S. Attorney David Ronsen to leave her clients alone! At its heart, public relations is all about strong relationships, as echoed in Stephen Murdoch’s recent PR Daily article. Whether it’s relationships with media, coworkers, vendors or clients, there’s much to be said for fostering these connections and making sure that the relationships are beneficial for all parties involved.
3. Know your (and your team’s) strengths, and delegate.
Olivia is confident and, most of the time, relies on her gut to make decisions. That being said, she knows when to ask for help from her team—the ever-loyal Quinn, Harrison, Abby and Huck—and how to play to their individual strengths. She communicates her vision clearly and delegates when necessary, with clear expectations of what’s expected from her staff members. A clear communication of vision and delegation is key to any successful PR firm.
4. Have a Plan B…and a Plan C and D. Maybe a Plan E, too.
If there’s anything to be learned from the first three seasons, it’s that Olivia is never out of options. She always has a backup plan and isn’t opposed to thinking outside of the box, whether it’s to help a client or save the President of the United States. Granted, I’ll most likely never have to do the latter, but her creative problem-solving and confidence while doing so is inspirational.
5. Always take time to enjoy a good glass of wine.
No matter how long or how hectic of a day she’s had, Olivia always manages to find time to unwind and appreciate a big glass of red wine. Whether your “big glass of wine” is reading, running, or a glass of wine in the literal sense (my way of relaxing after a long day), it’s important to make time for yourself and relax. Now if only I learned how she manages to never spill that wine on her white clothes…