With much fanfare, ABC last night premiered a new T.V. show called Scandal, which is based upon a real-life crisis management practitioner from Washington, D.C. Red Banyan Group, which specializes in high-stakes and crisis public relations, was eager to see just how the show portrayed this unique niche in the field of public relations.
As expected, the made-for-T.V. version of crisis management was over the top. Within just the first few minutes of the show the fictional firm had handed off $3 million in cash to some Ukrainian thugs (who were expecting $6 million) in exchange for the kidnapped son of an ambassador. Moments later they made the snap decision to take on as a client a man who staggered into their offices covered in blood claiming he had just found his murdered girlfriend.
In real-life, our Florida crisis management firm has been called upon to handle a variety of emotionally-charged and high-risk situations. While usually reticent to discuss the details of any client engagements publicly, we are willing to openly admit here on our blog that none of our work to date has involved slipping briefcases of non-sequential hundred dollar bills to mobsters.
Scandal certainly may draw its inspiration from reality, but it also pushes its story lines aggressively into the kind of hyperbole that is likely to draw viewers and keep them on their couches. That being said, some of the crisis management tactics employed by the “fixers” in the show are actually grounded in reality.
While it’s probably too early to draw any final conclusions about the quality of the show based on a single episode, we will certainly be watching in the future. After all, Scandal’s focus on how fast-paced PR pros go to extremes to get results for their clients hits far too close to home for Red Banyan Group not to be watching.