What your company can learn from Oscar’s biggest goof
It was the moment everyone was waiting for: the announcement of this year’s best film, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
And then the presenters called the wrong name.
Is this the biggest foul-up in the 89-year history of the Oscars? A more important question is: What would you do if your company experienced such a major, public catastrophe?
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the accounting firm responsible for tallying the votes, handling the winners’ cards and ensuring secrecy during the ceremony has come under intense scrutiny for the error. Find out what it did right and wrong, and how your company can learn from its crisis.
What the company did right
- Immediately went into damage control. PwC issued a statement just three hours after the ceremony.
- Apologized. This was indeed a huge gaffe, and it was embarrassing for numerous people, from presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to the cast and crew of “La La Land,” who mistakenly believed they had won the coveted award. The company apologized to everyone involved.
- Offered an explanation. Apparently, the debacle occurred as a result of human error: A distracted employee handed Beatty the wrong card.
- Took responsibility. PwC could have easily tried to blame the presenters, who perhaps should have known something was wrong when the card read “Best Actress.” In addition, the Academy changed the colors of the envelope and lettering this year, so PwC could have used that as an excuse. Instead, the company took ownership of the mistake.
- Put the right spokesman forward. Tim Ryan, the U.S. chairman and a senior partner for PwC, has served as the face of the company in media interviews.
Public relations missteps that PwC might have made
- Branding yourself around one event is a recipe for disaster.
Its role in the Oscar ceremony is a large part of PwC’s identity (and why the international accounting firm is a household name). However, as the company has now learned, when something goes wrong with that one event, your reputation can take a huge hit.
- Losing focus of your true mission can lead to chaos and misunderstandings.
According to initial reports, one of the PwC employees responsible for handing out envelopes was busy Tweeting photos of winners backstage. After the mix-up social media feeds and fans went crazy, accusing the employee of failing at his one job for the evening.
- Revealing too much may leave your company wide open for ridicule.
PwC gave interviews all week, discussing the process it follows regarding the envelopes and touting its Oscar’s relationship in other communication vehicles. Even the two employees were front and center, showing off the briefcases and highlighting their roles. If you’re going to do all that, you’d better make sure things go off without a hitch.
What your company can learn from all this
- Be prepared.
PwC has been handling the Oscars’ envelopes for 83 years with no major problems … until now. Your company should understand that a crisis could happen to any company at any time, so have a crisis plan in place.
- Take care of your reputation.
It’s really all you’ve got. Once sullied, it’s difficult to convince the public to forgive and forget.
- Hire a public relations firm.
Any crisis has the potential to steal your time and ruin your brand. With help from a qualified PR firm, you can handle whatever is thrown at you or work to prevent problems in the first place.
At Axia Public Relations, we offer revolutionary software to help monitor your reputation to avoid trouble. If you’ve already experienced a crisis, we will work with your company to develop a comprehensive plan of action you can implement with confidence. To find out more, contact us or download our e-book Managing Public Relations in a Crisis.
Lisa Goldsberry is a senior blogger for Axia Public Relations with more than 15 years of public relations experience. She specializes in business and technology PR. Lisa has worked for Axia since December 2013. Learn more about Lisa Goldsberry. Connect with Axia on Twitter @axiapr or tell us what you think in the comments below.
Featured image credit: Creative Commons