#MediaMonday – Sandy Wasserman
February 27, 2017
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Everyone is always vying for some kind of grand finale and on Sunday night, the Oscars delivered it. After what seemed like another run-of-the-mill award show, albeit with a much more diversified nominee list and a spectacular performance from the one and only Mr. Timberlake (MMC 4 Life), the ending had us all asking, “what just happened?”

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were the presenters for the Best Picture award, the most prestigious accolade of the evening. After what seemed like an intentionally bumbling and drawn out presentation on Warren’s part, Faye playfully proclaims, “You’re impossible,” and rushes to announce that La La Land has won.

Cue the celebration, then confusion, then heartbreak and then the celebration once more. As I’m sure you all know by now, the real victor was Moonlight; La La Land had been mistakenly read. But how did this happen? Whose fault is it really?

I’ll tell you whose fault it is: PricewaterhouseCoopers’, the company that audits the Oscar voting and handles, guess what, the envelopes.

Instead of receiving the correct card for Best Picture, the Bonnie and Clyde presenters were given a duplicate of the Best Actress envelope, containing Emma Stone’s name for her performance in La La Land. This leads to further questioning … how?

Evidence has surfaced thanks to Twitter. Brian Cullinan, PwC’s managing partner, was tweeting back stage at the Oscars minutes before the mix up. Otherwise, this would be no big deal; however, Cullinan was one of the two men in charge for holding and distributing the envelopes.

Cullinan tweeted “Best Actress Emma Stone backstage! #PWC” along with a photo of Stone at 9:05 p.m. PST. Roughly three minutes later, Beatty and Dunaway took the stage. The tweet has since been deleted but a number of media outlets were able to get a screenshot of it.

This is where the terms like branding and crisis control come into play, aspects of the job that will be handled by PwC’s public relations team. According to a number of crisis managers interviewed by ABC, they say that PwC has no other option than to immediately own up to the mistake and explain how it happened in order to mitigate the damage to its reputation and brand.

I couldn’t agree with this more. There is no skirting around the issue and no reversing the mistake—everyone saw it! Speaking from not only from a public relations viewpoint, but also from my own perspective, it’s best to be as humble and forthcoming as possible. More times than not, people would rather hear a genuine apology and a game plan to ensure that a similar situation won’t happen again rather than rambling excuses.

To their credit, PwC was quick to accept responsibility for the mistake and apologize to the movies involved. “The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and, when discovered, was immediately corrected,” it said in a statement. “We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.”

We have yet to hear anything else from PwC but I will be eagerly awaiting both their explanation as well as the public’s reaction to it. Let’s hope they don’t blame Steve Harvey.

What were some of your reactions? Do you think this will be a big issue or that PwC will resurface from it with its brand intact?

Breanne Krager
Breanne Krager
Bre has recently made the move from Michigan to join the all-star lineup at HMA. She's a voracious reader and strongly believes in the power of the written word. A self-diagnosed over-sharer, Bre will talk to just about anyone in the hopes of finding common ground. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring beautiful Arizona, doing something active (and competitive) and eating at as many restaurants as her budget and waistline will allow.