What We Can Learn About PR From #Envelopegate

What We Can Learn From Envelopegate The Friendly Publicist

If you were one of the 32.9 million people who watched the Oscars this past weekend, you probably witnessed some crazy history in the making.

As for me? I totally wasn’t watching. I was watching Netflix, enjoying some veggie lasagna. But I woke up to a feed full of emotion about this year’s Best Picture winner.

So what happened?

The envelopes got mixed up and La La Land, a major, predominantly white production, was announced as the winner of Best Picture.

The real winner was actually Moonlight, an indie film which is the first film with an all black cast and the first LGBT film to win the Best Picture Academy Award. Talk about making history!

The cast of La La Land was onstage accepting the award when they were told that Moonlight actually won. This resulted in an exchange that overshadowed the historic win and made a lot of people angry.

Who’s to blame?

PriceWaterhouseCoopers is an auditing company that has been in charge of managing the results for the past 83 years at the Academy Awards. They’re being charged as the people who let this mixup happen.

Is there any way to save this situation from a publicity perspective?

Abso-effin-lutely. If PriceWaterhouseCoopers wants to fix this, they’re going to have to throw out traditional notions of handling a media catastrophe. In 2017, you can’t expect a press statement to wrap up this kind of media storm. For PwC, It’s time to get creative.

This was a big misstep on their part, but this is also a huge opportunity for positive change. If they get creative and keep an open mind, they might be able to really turn this around.

Here are my suggestions:

Highlight and celebrate the people you oppressed. Apologizing is one thing – acting on it is another. They might want to invest in developing a web series that highlights small production teams with a focus on the LGBT and POC communities. They could partner up with a viral pop-culture blog and do something positive with the influence and financial backing they have.

Create a film fund. Why not use this opportunity to provide funding for future independent films highlighting marginalized communities? They’d need to make a diverse board of directors to run things, but this could be a wonderful turn-around project for them. It might also help make the Oscars even more diverse!

Host a startup competition to solve this problem. Another way to put their money where their mouth is and show people that they’re not a diversity-bashing, giant corporation. They could focus on inviting marginalized people (LGBT, POC, Women, etc.) to develop new tech that can fix this for next year’s Oscars. Huge story now, huge story at next year’s event, in a positive light. This way they’d also open themselves to opportunities for press coverage from places that would never think of writing about them – publications that talk about diversity, tech, and social issues – not just the usual pop culture spots.

Ask the people! As much as I could go on about ways they could fix this, I’m just a white girl living in New York. What might really help is asking the communities that were most affected by this situation what they would like to see happen. Community engagement is key to making lasting and effective change!

PwC needs to go above and beyond to fix this situation, now and in the future. On top of that, they have been provided with an incredible opportunity to make some positive social change, and they’d be foolish not to take action.

If there is anything we can learn about this for our own brands, it’s this:

  1. When you make a mistake, accept it. Apologize immediately.For smaller problems this can be in a direct email, and for a more public mixup, you can release a statement.
  2. Do what you can to turn that experience around. Shoot for the stars to make sure your customers are happy. It might be a refund (if you have a policy that allows refunds) or taking some time to walk the customer through an issue they’re having.
  3. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Or just ask the customer! It might not be feasible to give them everything they want, but listening to your customers will provide you with a ton of clarity about how to move forward for their sake and yours.

What do you think is the best way to quell this media storm? Leave your ideas in the comments below!

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