A year ago the people in charge of the Academy Awards flubbed it – badly.
As nearly everyone knows, the cringe-worthy moment came when someone handed presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelope, causing them to announce La La Land as the Best Picture winner, when the Oscar actually belonged to Moonlight.
It was quite an embarrassing – and humbling – moment for everyone involved. Add the fact that nearly 33 million people were watching and you had a broadcast gaffe of gargantuan dimensions. Had most of us been in that situation, we would have wanted to slink away, never to be seen again!
But the folks behind the Academy Awards didn’t slink away. Quite the contrary! At this year’s Oscars, they dealt with the PR debacle head on, owning up to what happened while still giving the audience what it always tunes in for – fabulous gowns and heartfelt acceptance speeches, with a little music and comedy mixed in.
Hopefully, in your efforts to promote your brand, you’ve never experienced a media misadventure that’s anywhere near the equivalent of last year’s Oscars. But many of us who have appeared on TV, been interviewed on radio or talked with a newspaper reporter certainly have had a few moments we would like to get back.
Maybe you were asked a tough question you didn’t expect and stammered out an inadequate response. Perhaps you were unprepared for the detailed questions the interviewer posed, making you seem less authoritative on the subject than you really are. Or maybe nerves got the better of you and you drew a blank on what should have been an easy answer to a simple question.
If so, let’s take a look at what the Oscars can teach us about handling these situations:
- Don’t pretend it never happened. Minor flubs can be swept aside, but anything else should be addressed appropriately. One way the Oscars acknowledged last year’s blunder was to have fun with it. They didn’t lose their sense of humor and you shouldn’t either. Host Jimmy Kimmel made several jokes about it during his opening monologue, and presenter Mark Hammill opened an envelope while muttering to himself, “Don’t say La La Land. Don’t say La La Land.” They also boldly invited Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway back to the “scene of the crime,” having them present the Best Picture Oscar once again. Bonnie and Clyde did it flawlessly this time!
- Make necessary changes. Is there anything you can do that will help you avoid a similar mistake in the future? Better preparation? More research on the person who is going to interview you and how they conduct their interviews? The Oscars put new safeguards into place, such as forbidding PricewaterhouseCoopers employees from using cell phones or social media any time during the show. One of the reasons cited for last year’s mistake is that the PwC accountant who handed the wrong envelope to Beatty and Dunaway had been distracted because he was tweeting on his cell phone.
- Get back to business. It’s important that you don’t let the mistake define you. At the Oscars, the show and the awards had to go on, regardless of last year’s catastrophe, and that’s just what happened. From the red carpet interviews as the stars arrived to the final acceptance speech, the Oscars managed to get back to the business of handing out awards and celebrating the film industry.
Hey, if you’ve ever had a tough time with a bad media moment, I can relate. When my book Celebritize Yourself came out, I was booked on a radio show where the host misunderstood the book’s message. He thought I was going to talk about celebrities, so he had spent his time preparing to ask questions that had nothing to do with my topic of how ordinary people can brand themselves as experts in their fields.
It was quite embarrassing. But, just like the people at the Oscars, I didn’t slink away. I continued to seek out interviews – I just tried to make sure our pitch left no doubt about the message I wanted to share with the world.
So learn from your media mishaps, make any necessary changes to avoid a repeat situation, and charge ahead!
The envelope, please!
P.S. If you’d like professional help getting coverage in the press, and being interviewed on radio and TV, give us a call. We’ve been providing this service to clients for 28 years. We also offer a comprehensive social media marketing program for select clients, where we do it all for you. If you’re interested in our help, please call us at 727-443-7115 Ext. 231. We’d love to hear from you!