Eight Business Lessons from TV’s Scandal

ABC’s long running drama Scandal ended its seven-season run in April. While a fictional television show focused on the White House and highlighting the tumultuous day-to-day Washington, D.C. dynamics, the show’s storylines and characters can teach us a few things about business especially branding and communications. Here’s how:

1. Always begin with the end in mind. Whether it was Olivia Pope or Cyrus Bean or Jake Ballard making the moves, there was always a plan even when it seemed like there wasn’t a plan. Every action was thought out and well executed. Plans matter.

2. Remain in control. There is always a solution even when you think you hit a brick wall. Take a moment. Then fix the problem or jump at the opportunity.

3. What you say and do matters … and people are listening and watching. Don’t wait for a leak for your messages or actions to trickle out to unintended audiences. Everything you say and do must support your business goals, ethics and mission.

4. Look the part. Brand – whether it’s yours or the company for which you work – is determined by every action you take. Olivia Pope was the brand from the white hat to the specific, dramatic walk, to the large purses and fashionable clothes. In your business, everything from your employees to your advertising and marketing materials tell a story about you. What do you want it to be?

5. Your team is everything. One of the quotes from the final episodes of Scandal that was repeated on social media was “… over the cliff” as each of Olivia Pope’s OPA team agreed to stand by her no matter the legal ramifications. It was a sign of trust, friendship and loyalty. Treating employees well – in word and actions – will generate respect. They might not go “over the cliff” for you but they will support you.

6. Trust/Honesty/Transparency. In the last episodes of Scandal, every character paid the price for their bad decisions. However, the underlying theme that redeemed them in the eyes of the audience was the final decision to tell the truth. Don’t wait until you’re in a pickle to rely on honesty – use it with every audience you have. Transparency is essential.

7. Leaders lead. People wanted to work with Olivia Pope because she got things done. She was influential. She had a presence. She had confidence. She knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to make it happen. Find your voice and step up.

8. Be passionate. This is not about office romance, but rather about truly believing in something – a cause, a person, a product – and doing everything you can to support and grow it. The characters on Scandal had a variety of topics they were passionate about often demonstrated through dramatic monologues or long silences or radical actions. You want to make others feel the way you do and have them follow or support you in your efforts. Simple actions make big impacts.

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