And the Oscar goes to . . . cringeworthy awkwardness
The 2017 Oscars made history on Sunday. But not in a good way.
Some poor soul handed the presenters for best picture the wrong envelope, prompting them to name La La Land the winner instead of Moonlight. Producers and stagehands eventually corrected the mistake and brought the correct envelope on stage, but not before La La Land producers started making acceptance speeches for an award they hadn’t actually won.
Accidents happen, even on live TV. And while the Oscars producers would love to travel back in time and fix this, that only happens in films. What matters now is how they respond to the incident. Here are a few gaffe lessons we can learn from this year’s Oscars.
1. Admit to Your Mistake Right Away
Today, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that has been handling Oscars results for decades, apologized for its mistake. That’s a crucial part of messing up. After an embarrassing incident, it’s important for a brand to offer a sincere, straightforward apology without qualifying it. They shouldn’t apologize to “those who may have been offended” or “those who are upset.” They should just apologize.
2. Crack a Joke
Sometimes lightening the mood with a clever quip can relieve tension after a ghastly error. Immediately following the Oscars mix-up, host Jimmy Kimmel took the mic and said, “Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this.” Harvey famously announced the wrong Miss Universe winner in 2015. However, it’s important to remember context. If a brand’s mistake results in serious injury, for example, cracking a joke would be inappropriate. In this case, a little wit could keep people from laughing at the Academy and prompt them to laugh with it instead.
3. Make Sure It Never Happens Again
Another important part of making a mistake is publicly announcing how you are going to prevent that mistake moving forward. Ironically, Sunday’s error resulted from a “failsafe” system the PwC accountants created consisting of duplicated envelopes. Unfortunately, the system didn’t really save anyone from failing. PwC and the Academy should outline a new game plan for handling the Oscars results and a backup plan for dealing with live mishaps.
So no, the Academy didn’t get their happy ending, but there’s no use in dwelling on the past. While public gaffes are inherently awkward, the aftermath can be smooth with the right damage control.