Are you a fan of the network hit, “The Good Wife?” I knew the show was popular, but quite honestly I had never watched it until this Spring, when I was asked to help tutor the show’s writers on crisis management for the upcoming season. I did catch a few episodes before meeting with the entire writing team this month to talk about how crises and scandals are handled by professional damage control experts in the real world.
Without giving away the potential plot line, suffice it to say that one of the characters is going to find themselves in a situation where crisis management will be required. I can say that both the writers and myself learned a few things. The writers learned that handling crisis in today’s internet-driven news cycles is extremely difficult, and that there are few elements of how the story plays that a real person has control over. One of those, I told them, is timing, and the other is location. If you know that something bad is going to come out (and in television, it always does come out), then you can control when it is made public, and in which publication. If you don’t take advantage of those elements, you effectively seed the only things you have power over to your adversaries.
The one thing you don’t have control over, I reminded them, is the facts. That’s why good crisis managers look for every bit of context that they can wrap around the facts to put them in the fullest perspective. I also told them that very often, damage control experts didn’t have access to all of the facts. Individuals lie, hide information, neglect to tell you important details, and otherwise obfuscate. Never draw a line in the sand that you have to walk back from.
And I learned that a television show must have conflict, tension, uncertainty, and a limited number of characters that it can focus on. Sounds a lot like the real thing. And I won’t really know happens in the show until it airs next season.