It is being called the “worst flub in Oscar history.” Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced the winner of this year’s Best Picture Award to be “La La Land”, when in reality the winner was “Moonlight”.
“There’s a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture,” exclaimed La La Land’s producer, Jordan Horowitz, as he graciously accepted reality and welcomed the Moonlight team on stage.
Aghast movie fans were not as understanding. They immediately took to Twitter chastising the accounting firm responsible for the slip up. PwC, formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers, has been the firm in charge of the ballot counting process of the Academy Awards for the past 83 years. They pride themselves on “being a firm of integrity, of accuracy and confidentiality” and have never had a mix up like this. Until last night’s awards.
While PwC was quick to act – alerting the Academy of the real winners and immediately releasing a statement owning up to their mistake – the crisis response is far from over.
As buzz continues, scrutinizing the fate of the company’s reputation, PwC needs to check all their crisis communication boxes. If the accounting firm wants to mitigate long-term embarrassment to their brand – and potentially even turn this attention into a positive – there are still some crucial steps to take.
1. Post the apology on their website
Right now, the company’s apology can only be found via a Twitter image that’s very difficult to find and already requires users to scroll down past 10+ more recent tweets in order to see it. Nothing on Facebook, Instagram, or their own corporate website.
To the more discerning individual, it’ll look like they’ve already tried to sweep this under the rug. Worse yet, the broader segment of people casually looking for info about this likely won’t find it.
It’s important that everyone sees they’ve taken full responsibility for the mistake. Being that PwC’s website comes up first in Google search results, it’s important that their apology is clearly visible on the first (and only) place that most searchers will land.
2. Let the public know specifically what happened.
PwC has promised to investigate the situation to figure out what exactly happened last night. People will remember this, and it’s critical that PwC follows through with this promise. Not addressing this in the future could result in an integrity stain bigger than anything caused by last night’s incident itself. Long-term negative sentiment could ensue in such a situation, so PwC must stick to its word.
Even if the answer is mundane – that someone erroneously printed out the wrong file or wrongly labeled an envelope – people will appreciate the clarity. Details like these will add context, and whatever mistake was specifically made will surely be relatable to people. We’ve all sent the wrong attachment in an email, printed the wrong file, or picked up the wrong item from a store.
Unless there were deliberately foul motives at play, PwC shouldn’t play into the public’s desire for a scapegoat and punishment. The loudest voices on social media are the trolls and their short-term lust for “justice” shouldn’t be pandered to.
Long-term, PwC is far better off being seen as a brand that stands behind its employees and understands that people make mistakes sometimes. This will go a long way with company employees too since it truly could have been any one of them.
3. Give back some more to the film community
PwC has already given a lot to the film community, their sponsorship of the event clearly demonstrates this. Still, it’s important that people realize this, and details like these quickly get lost in the shuffle.
To draw more attention to this side of the situation, doubling down with something
new that benefits the film industry would shift the focus from one of blame and clumsiness to one of continued commitment and even more goodwill.
4. Do something specifically for La La Land
This incident blindsided the group of hard-working creatives that created La La Land. Everyone who watched the show felt for the La La Land team and the emotional roller coaster that must have ensued. If there’s any victim here, it’s clearly them.
By doing something specifically for the La La Land team, PwC can turn their mistake into a positive. Something like a weeklong PwC-sponsored promotion with Amazon, Google Play, and other digital film providers (via discounted pricing subsidized by PwC) could spur interest in the movie and benefit filmgoers all at once. They could even invite the entire La La cast to next year’s Oscars, treating them to an evening together provided by PwC.
Not only will devout La La fans appreciate a kind gesture like this, but the action is sure to generate press coverage. Most importantly, those directly affected by this mishap – the people who played a role in the movie’s creation – will benefit from this.
5. Communicate with their stakeholders
It’s crucial that stakeholders – shareholders, employees, and clients, all know that PwC is actively addressing the situation to preserve the trust and respect of the public.
PwC should immediately communicate to stakeholders, letting them know about what they’re doing to handle the situation. Their stakeholders likely don’t all see every tweet the company makes and are more likely reading the embarrassing headlines today, all of which talk about the damage this is doing to PwC’s reputation.
If you’re a shareholder in the company, you may wonder (even if irrationally) about the company’s long-term prospects because of this incident. If you’re an employee, you’re likely embarrassed as your company is the subject of half of today’s internet jokes. If you’re a client, you may be more focused on the noise than the actual merits of PwC’s service.
In all of these situations, it makes sense to communicate. Taking responsibility for your actions will never be seen as a bad thing. If anything, it’ll reassure people that you’ll be there to properly handle and dispel more serious crises when they do emerge.
6. Embrace the opportunity
“All press is good press” is an exaggeration, but in this case PwC can turn the negative into a positive here by remaining in the conversation.
PwC could easily make ads based around this incident and diffuse the situation with humor. They should own it. It’ll get people talking about their ads. How many companies – let alone accounting firms – enjoy the luxury of something like this? The wheels are spinning vigorously in our minds as we start thinking about ad possibilities. Needless to say, there’s a ton of potential here and if executed tastefully, could leave the company even better off than it was before last night.