Did “The Good Wife” Get Crisis Communications Right?

by Affect Team on October 14, 2011

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It’s pretty much a known fact here at Affect that if it was on TV, I probably watched it. And, seeing that “The Good Wife” is easily one of the best dramas on TV right now, I certainly caught this past weekend’s episode, where in-house crisis communications director Eli Gold (played by Alan Cumming), hits the ground running on a scandal involving contaminated cheese (cue b-roll of kids sick after eating cheese at school.)

In the past year, the technology industry has been no stranger to its own crisis communications events (though none involving cheese.) From the Epsilon data breach to the Sony hack, many companies have been faced with the same type of urgent response situation depicted onscreen.

Here are some of the pieces the show got right:

  • Get in front of a story, rather than behind it – In the episode, Eli puts the wheels into motion on a crisis strategy the second he sits down with the stakeholder. I can’t explain how important it is for a company to sit down with their PR team and develop a crisis communications plan, BEFORE they ever have a crisis.
  • Get all of your stakeholders on the same page – One of the benefits of creating a reviewing an internal crisis communications plan is that you’ll have identified key stakeholders and their responsibilities. In the episode, a key spokesperson speaks out of turn before being briefed by PR and legal counsel. Annual crisis communications training can help get everyone on the same page early.
  • Get legal involved, if necessary – Often there are legal ramifications, especially if the company is publicly traded. Make sure that team members from each department are represented on a first tier or second tier list of stakeholders, depending on the nature of the crisis.
  • Never point the finger – We’ve all seen it happen. A spokesperson gets in front of a camera and blames the other guy. What we forget is that in the media, perception is often reality. Trying to shift the blame rarely ever works.

Did you spot any other things the show got right, or any missteps? Does your company have its crisis communications/urgent response plan on the ready?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen Swim 10.24.11 at 4:17 pm

Kate, like you I love The Good Wife and this was by far one of my favorite episodes. Your analysis is right on and I’m sure will help business owners gain a better understanding of Crisis Communications. I thought the the show also did a good job in portraying that crisis management does not necessarily eliminate liability but can mitigate damages. It was a realistic portrayal that mirrors real world crises.

Kate Ryan 10.26.11 at 11:58 am

Karen – so glad to find a fellow fan of The Good Wife! Completely agree with your feedback about crisis communications not being a silver bullet, but helping to manage overall risk. Thanks again for your comment!

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