The PRecision of Pope

NOTE FROM JEFF MOROSOFF:  Each semester, my public relations students in Hofstra University’s Honors College are required to contribute posts to my blog.  The following guest post was written by sophomore Nyala Stagger:

Nyala Stagger

Nyala Stagger

In January, Arik Hanson, principal at digital communications consultancy ACH Communications, wrote an article about the hit television show, Scandal, and its representation of the PR industry. In this article he questioned other public relations professionals from top firms of the country and got their opinion of the show and its relation to PR.

When I initially saw the title, “Does Scandal’s Olivia Pope represent the PR industry well?” I automatically answered, “Of course!” being a proud gladiator (as fans and followers of Pope are called). She represents some of what I hope to be as a PR professional: passionate, savvy, quick-witted, strategic, and most importantly effective.

As I continued to read, however, I had to admit to myself that, like any other television show, Scandal is a fictionalization of the real world, and thus, some of Olivia Pope’s work as a crisis management consultant and campaign aide are very far from the truth. Obviously the task of covering up a murder committed by a top politician wouldn’t be a part of my day-to-day life in the PR industry.

Despite the campaign rigging, crime scene clean ups, and an affair with the president of the United States, nevertheless, Olivia Pope still exhibits some PR skills that are great examples for a public relations student, like me, including improving her clients’ public image, producing relationships with her clients and the public via the media, understanding the basic needs of people, and being tactful and strategic with decisions about her clients to satisfy those needs. As Anuli Akanegbu of Edelman said in Arik Hanson’s article, Olivia Pope “is a problem-solver that thinks quickly, strategically and creatively as any good PR practitioner should.”

How well do you think Scandal blurs the lines of fiction and reality? Do you think it gives people the wrong impression of an already hard-to-define profession or should she still be applauded for the great public relations skills she exhibits?

5 thoughts on “The PRecision of Pope

  1. Keyana Hammons

    As a fellow Gladiator fan, I would like to start off by saying that Scandal is a very addicting show. Creator Shonda Rhimes, combines fiction and and reality enough so that viewers catch a glimpse of daily PR responsibilities but also keeping fiction in the mix which helps give the show its outstanding ratings. Not everything is what it seems though especially in TV or movies. As a Public Relations professional, you would never to go to some of the extremes Olivia Pope does such as covering up a murder, kidnapping, or even cyber hacking into a top secret government database. However, seeing how Olivia develops relationships with both her clients and the media, watching her attempt to reshape America’s view of the President, and thinking quick on her feet to solve the problems, those are real life duties PR professionals will and must deal with on a daily basis. Scandal like any TV show/movie will amplify the storyline, but Scandal also gives viewers, for the most part, a realistic view of the PR world.

  2. Anuli (@akaanuli_tweets)

    Thanks for quoting me in your post, Nyala! That was a tough question for me to answer in Arik’s post because of the reasons some of the other pros mentioned. Ultimately, Olivia is a fictional character and television knows that “sex sells” so they are going to dramatize the role to an inch of its life. But at the end of the day, Olivia tries her best for her clients. However, as of late the show has been focusing much, much more on the drama than the work. I am a Gladiator, sure, but I don’t aspire to be like Olivia and I think that’s what the show wants us to keep in mind. She’s flawed, she’s human.

  3. Amanda Torres

    I love Scandal, I think it’s an amazingly written show. While it does in fact highlight certain PR characteristics/instincts, I think it’s best to take it for what it actually is: a television drama. The character Olivia Pope definitely has all of the qualities, traits and characteristics many great PR professionals have, but come on… What REAL PR professional would be sleeping with the president of the U.S? LOL

  4. Devon Hambrecht

    I have never seen this show to be able to compare the real actions of a PR professional compared to the television character played by Olivia Pope, but i think all of the right characteristics are there. PR pros have to be creative and strategically quick thinkers in order to succeed and accomplish what is needed to be successful in the industry. Scandal is most likely an exaggeration of the duties a public relations practitioner, but more or less contains the basic ideals that is needed in order to thrive in the industry.

  5. jmcpha1

    First, let me say that I love Scandal. When people ask me what I’m doing with PR, how it’s different from marketing, etc, I often point them to the show.

    However, I have often been annoyed with Olivia calling herself a “Fixer.” It sounds like she fixes problems for the people she’s close to, spins stories, and covers things up instead of genuinely finding solutions to issues.

    That being said, I think Scandal does an excellent job of highlighting the tough ethical issues that sometimes arise in PR. Nothing is ever cut and dry and it’s not always possible to do the totally right thing and get out unscathed. Rigging an election, having an affair with the President, and covering up a murder aside, Olivia seems to have good intentions and stays true to her gut. Her decisions often haunt her, and she tries to do good by others.

    All in all, this is a dramatized television show. It’s well written, and the conflict makes for a flawed, yet extremely sympathetic and likable character. But not many PR professionals will have to deal with what Olivia deals with on a daily basis.

    – Jen McPhail


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