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The Real PR Challenge For The Oscars Is 2018

02/03/2017 15:13
Vincenzo Lombardo via Getty Images

This week's onstage shenanigans at the Oscars were a complete PR nightmare, from the logistical mistakes of the wrong Best Film envelope ending up in the hands of the two film icons who are Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to the embarrassment of the wrong portrait appearing in the In Memoriam part of proceedings, as an Australian film producer watched aghast as her picture was attributed to a recently deceased costume designer, also Australian.  

It is safe to say that all the drama of the night has now given both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards (or the Oscars as we know them!) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) a monumental reputational challenge - a PR headache of gigantic proportions.

Countless questions are now being asked, not only by the world's media but also internally, and there will now be many teams, both at the Academy and at PwC, working very hard behind the scenes to make sure that this situation will never be repeated. The pressure from the media will feel relentless, particularly in a communications landscape in which the newly elected President has accused the Hollywood film community of being out of touch with ordinary Americans, so politically obsessed that the Academy even allowed these mistakes to happen.

But what most of those caught up in all the ensuing drama will not realise at the moment, as they work on issuing statements and co-ordinating interviews under this intense media scrutiny, is that the biggest PR challenge actually lays ahead of them. As the preparations for next year's awards begins, if they haven't started already, there will now be another completely new strand of intense activity.  

In addition to all the usual event planning, management of the voting process, celebrity liaison, pre-publicity build up, broadcast programming, endless rehearsals etc. etc. there will now be another huge focus of time and resource. This new area of activity will be solely dedicated to communicating very clearly to both the members of the Academy and to all its global audiences including, of course, the media that this scenario will not happen again. 

It will not be enough just to make one media statement. In this 24/7 media world there will need to be a series of in-depth briefings across all media and social media platforms, from CNN to Facebook and Twitter, with regular succinct explanations and clear rationales, of the new improved approach, along with an outline of who is responsible for what. And of course, all this communications activity will need to be underpinned by a continuing expression of regret for what happened, along with constant reassurances that the same mistakes will never be repeated.

As the communications teams at the Academy and PwC will soon realise, these sorts of situations deliver not just short-term reputational damage but, in our online world, stay in the Google search engines forever. This is why the teams for both the Oscars and PwC must now work hard to generate positive stories and content to counteract the negative impact of Warren Beatty being handed the wrong envelope. 

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