Throwing Shade

South Mississippi officials: Hire Olivia Pope or get off social media

Kerry Washington is PR crisis-management guru Olivia Pope in the ABC series ‘Scandal.’
Kerry Washington is PR crisis-management guru Olivia Pope in the ABC series ‘Scandal.’ AP File

I know Olivia Pope is really busy trying to save America from Cyrus Beene on “Scandal,” but perhaps she could make some time to visit South Mississippi soon.

Let’s be honest, Coast gladiators. We need her.

From a public relations standpoint, January has been one of those really awkward scenes in a movie where you want to look away but instead you grab your extra-butter popcorn and hit the record button on your iPhone instead.

And some South Mississippi municipalities definitely needed Olivia to come down here and say, “It’s handled.”

First, there was the Great Americans Day fiasco in Biloxi. Someone over at the city tweeted that non-emergency services in Biloxi would be closed Jan. 16 in observance of Great Americans Day, not Martin Luther King Jr. Day. At first, the city defended the tweet, saying the new naming convention was the state’s decision. That was not correct. The city had renamed MLK Day to observe other “great Americans” almost 30 years ago. Somehow, that decision was dug up and spread on social media this year. Instead of apologizing, they held a specially called meeting Jan. 16 and renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Day to — get this — Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks to the Women’s March events that led to peaceful protests in cities across the nation and world. Sen. Chris McDaniel, who represents a portion of Mississippians living in the Pine Belt area, took to Facebook to pick on the millions of women who marched for equality.

“But I do have a question: if they can afford all those piercings, tattoos, body paintings, signs and plane tickets, then why do they want us to pay for their birth control?”

Not to worry, the world was watching, giving people another reason to have a bitter taste in their mouths when they hear the word “Mississippi.” McDaniel never apologized, of course.

On Friday, Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran said she was being sarcastic when she left a comment on Facebook that implied the military should be defunded. Moran apologized publicly and said her intent was not to offend anyone. She was speaking out because she was frustrated about proposals by the state and the Trump administration that would cut funding for the arts.

Moran, in my opinion, did the right thing very quickly, and that is admirable because others have not been so quick to set the record straight.

If Olivia Pope were a real person (and I wish she were) I think she would have had much different strategies to putting out these fires.

Sometimes, all it takes is an I’m sorry.

And sometimes, all it takes is a moment to think about what you’re typing before you post it. We live in a world in which posts can be deleted or modified, but a screen shot can last forever.

I think a public relations crisis-management class, like the fabulous one I took at USM, could help a lot of public figures in South Mississippi.

Justin Mitchell: 228-604-0705, @Journalism_J