The Real-Life Olivia Pope on How to Clean Up a Scandal

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Why you should care

Hint: Don’t cover it up.

You know the show Scandal, right? That’s the Shonda Rhimes brainchild whose glam, beautiful protagonist, Olivia Pope, goes about fixing all sorts of ugly, shameful problems for her clients.

Rhimes didn’t conjure Pope from thin air. Rather, she had a muse named Judy Smith — just as glam but utterly real. The attorney and celebrity crisis manager doesn’t talk about those who hire her services, mind you, but her list of clients is legion: Clarence Thomas, Monica Lewinsky, Michael Vick, Paula Deen and Sony Pictures after its 2014 hack. Smith sat down with OZY’s Carlos Watson at OZY Fest this summer to dish.

How to be a very good client when you’ve been very bad

Sure, they’re in the midst of thorny, thorny problems, but sometimes the folks at the very heart of it all can’t admit it to themselves. Should you find yourself at the center of a scandal, own it — and reach out for help.

Tell the truth, the whole ugly truth

The core of crisis management? Your manager has to know the facts. “It sounds basic, but if you’re solving a problem and something comes from left field you knew nothing about, that’s a problem,” Smith says.

Own up to it

So often, denial becomes part of the crisis. People tend to think the difficult stuff will go away if they just ignore it long enough. Wrong!

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