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Oscars Envelope

The Oscars Fiasco and Crisis Communications

Bonnie & Clyde robbed the Oscars. Steve Harvey is vindicated. “La La Land” won the popular vote but “Moonlight” won the electoral college. Instead of #OscarsSoWhite, the new hashtag is #OscarsSoWrong. These are just a few of the witty remarks on social media when Faye Dunaway, standing with a befuddled Warren Beatty, announced incorrectly that La La Land won Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars.

It’s not the worst thing that ever happened, but the producer, cast and crew of Moonlight were stunned instead of jubilant, the La La Land team was disappointed, and viewers around the world cringed. While the whole thing went very wrong, a few things went right, which are good lessons for how to respond in a crisis.

When something breaks, fix it. “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz interrupted the acceptance speeches to say “Moonlight” really won, and that he was happy to hand them the award. In an industry known for egos, it was a moment of memorable graciousness. He later said that while he was a little heartbroken, he got to thank his wife and son, so all was good.

Figure out what happened, and fast. When Beatty walked up to the microphone, my first thought was,”Don’t make it worse!” But he explained that the card in the Best Picture envelope he was given was actually for the Best Actress winner – “La La Land” star Emma Stone. Later, accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which tabulates the results and handles the cards, confirmed one of the partners assigned to the broadcast gave Beatty the wrong envelope.

What’s been written before will be written again. As everyone wondered what happened, journalists will look at what’s been said before. An earlier post on the self-publishing platform Medium (since removed) explained that two PwC partners – one on each side of the stage – have a complete set of envelopes with the winners’ names inside. That explains why Dunaway and Beatty had an unopened envelope for an award that was already given.

It’s more than what happened, it’s what happens next. Everybody makes mistakes. Yep, everybody – even people at the top of their game. The movie business is a business; how any business responds in a pinch says a lot about it. Personally, I hope the cast and crew of “Moonlight” were able to shake off the shock and celebrate as they should have able to all along. Horowitz was praised for doing the right thing. PwC admitted fault and apologized; the partners, also criticized for not reacting quickly enough after the initial mistake, won’t be back next year.

I like to look at the whole thing as an alternate ending on the bonus reel of life.

 

(This post was originally published on LinkedIn.) 

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