This week, Ogilvy UK’s CEO, Michael Frohlich, was joined by world renowned crisis manager, lawyer, author and executive producer of TV show ‘Scandal’, Judy Smith, in the latest in the agency’s talk series, Ogilvy Sessions.
As well as Judy’s career, which includes a stint as a member of the White House staff, the pair discussed the power of communications in the modern world. Here are highlights from Judy’s thoughts and advice.
On adapting to today’s volatile times, in which it’s difficult to control a narrative in the climate of multiple communication outlets
For Judy, social media is a game-changer. She highlighted how internationally, news now travels in 17 seconds, maybe 20 seconds on a slow day. This means that by the time there is an issue, the narrative is set in stone already. Judy advises businesses to learn how to become faster in this space in order to protect their companies.
On managing self-doubt in challenging situations
“I don’t doubt the advice I give. The reason for this is largely linked to the person I am – I believe in the course I set”, something Judy admits takes time to develop. “You have to grow into that level of confidence – I wasn’t like that when I was 20 years old”.
On building and maintaining a positive relationship with the press
Honesty and integrity are not just at the core of who Judy is, but also at the heart of her relationship with the press. “I am always honest and transparent with the media – I don’t sell bullshit, I never have. People rely on that and know I have a level of honesty and integrity”.
Strategies for brands to deal with fake news
When asked about how she would deal with ‘fake news’ as a crisis communications expert, Judy admitted it’s tough and advises constantly “beating it back”.
Unfortunately, in the era of ‘fake news’ there’s no magic bullet to it. Judy does advise a strong stance – “the only thing I can say is when you see ‘fake news’, call it out. Every single time. And remember that proof is key”.
On diversity and advice for young women of colour
In a world where issues of diversity and inclusion have existed for what feels like forever, Judy advises not paying too much attention to it daily as it take her “off my game”. Instead, she advises concentrating on what you should be focusing on day to day.
But, importantly, for women of colour and more widely, boundaries are key. Judy stresses to “be clear about what your boundaries are. A level of confidence and strength takes time but it will pay off”.
Advice for the next generation of communicators
When asked about tips for the future communicators in the industry, Judy believes future generations should be thinking internationally, because the world is international in scope.
She also advises people coming into the industry not to specialise. For Judy, in today’s communications world “being able to do different things and pop into different situations is critical.” This comes into play every day. On a ‘typical day’ in the modern world of communications, you could go from working on a CEO leaving to an athlete who’s just lost his or her contract. When there is such a range of work that moves very quickly, it’s important to be adaptable.