PR crises best practices, live from the Academy Awards

February 28, 2017

It’s no surprise that the dresses and drama of the Academy Awards draws in millions of viewers each year – myself included. And while this year’s Oscars were both emotional and entertaining, 3 hours and 40 minutes of (actually pretty good) programming were overshadowed by a major mistake in its last few moments.

While you don’t need to be a public relations pro to recognize that things could have gone a little smoother, the aftermath of the Best Picture slipup illuminated three tried and true PR crises best practices:

  1. Be first

 No one likes to admit they’re at fault, but when a crisis hits, it’s crucial to get ahead of the news as much as possible. Since the Oscars were broadcast live this was virtually impossible, but we have no doubt PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that oversees the Oscars ballot process, was putting together its statement at lightning speed, in an attempt to shift the message in its favor.


  1. Be right

 Accuracy, during a crisis, is also of utmost importance. Despite heightened tensions and phones ringing off the hook, it’s imperative to ensure said statement is as accurate as possible. When in need of more time, seasoned PR pros can first share a holding statement, providing media with an initial soundbite, setting forth basic facts and letting the press know the situation is being dealt with. PwC chose to share its statement via Twitter, instantly reaching millions of people and accepting full responsibility with regards to the mistake.


  1. Ignore the critics, sometimes

 For a company that’s managed the Oscar ballots for the last 83 years, we’d say PwC has kept a pretty good record. That being said, the Best Picture reversal instantly became the central theme of the Oscars, repeated endlessly on television and swamping social media. One of the so-called Big Four accounting firms was suddenly plagued by not-so-nice headlines, including “Oscars mistake could prove a major blow to PricewaterhouseCoopers reputation” and “#Envelopegate: How PwC will never live this down.” And while it’s always important to keep tabs on negative press, sometimes it’s best to just hunker down and stick to the plan.


Coming out on top after a crisis isn’t easy – even for one of the biggest firms in the world. But here’s a special thanks to the Academy, for reminding everyone how important PR is.


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