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How Scandal Made Me Want to Work in PR

Grace Hawkins is a sophomore at Boston University studying Public Relations. She is a member of BU PRSSA's Digital Media and Blog Team where she is the Twitter team lead. Grace is also a part of the promotions team on the Conference Committee for BU PRSSA.


When I was 13, I decided to watch the television show Scandal for the first time. I’m not quite sure what led me to this, as it was not very age-appropriate, but it had me hooked. From that point on, all I wanted to do was work in communications.

Shonda Rhimes created Scandal as the follow-up to her hit medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. The political thriller aired from 2012-2018, and received praise, especially for its lead actress Kerry Washington in the role of Oliva Pope. Scandal was based on Judy Smith, whose career began in the White House like Pope’s, and her work in crisis communication. Smith is also a Boston University PR alum! Scandal combined a typical political program with the intrigue of public relations, which introduced many, including me, to the field.

The show followed Pope and her employees as they handled various media nightmares for their clients, mostly politicians as the show was based in Washington D.C., and included various White House storylines as well. Each episode focused on a certain case, as Pope navigated the challenges that came with the crisis.

While maybe I had seen the aforementioned Grey’s Anatomy and wanted to become a doctor, no television show had made me interested in a future career like Scandal. The way Pope worked with the media and her clients fascinated me. Often, Pope worked for questionable clients, she wanted to try and do good within her firm. Scandal demonstrated both the good and bad of crisis communication, and some may find Pope’s job a nightmare, but I found it intriguing. Working with the media and trying to get a certain message out into the world seemed like the ideal career for me.

The later seasons of the show began to lose me personally when it focused more on the White House and the interworkings of the presidency, and less on the case studies of crisis communication. I still loved Scandal, but it lacked the magic the earlier seasons had. Now, whenever I watch other television shows, I love when they discuss media scandals, most recently the family business dramedy Succession. Every time I witness these situations play out on screen, it makes me more excited for the field I will eventually be entering.

While I may not become another Olivia Pope in my future career, I have to thank Scandal for introducing me to the world of public relations and crisis communication.

Written by Grace Hawkins

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