This years Oscars was a memorable one. Maybe it was that actor Mahershala Ali was the first Muslim to win an award, or perhaps it was the explosive feud between Meryl Streep and Chanel over her dress… Or it could be the wrong announcement of Best Picture.
Firm favourite La La Land were forced to hand over their best picture award to Moonlight after wrongly thinking they had won the most prestigious award in film.
As the fiasco unfolded blame first landed on the presenters of the award, Warren Beatty and Fay Dunaway. PWC remained silent until the next day when they took full responsibility, citing the wrong envelope as the cause. The two PWC accountants who had supplied the envelopes said nothing as photos of them posing on the red carpet circulated everywhere.
PWC has been counting the Oscar votes for over 83 years, securing its place as reliable, smart and always accurate. Now however, it scrambles to fight for that reputation. The Oscars has already banned the two accountants from attending any future ceremonies and PWC are now ‘reviewing’ their employment.
The whole situation made me think about how important reputation is in PR. Though it may take years to gain this, it can only take moments – or one wrong card – to completely destroy it. PR is about controlling the narrative and always being one step, or ten, ahead. PWC had planned for this event, but the accountants were reported to have frozen in the moment (maybe one of them held eye contact with a shocked Ben Affleck).
So, what now for PWC? So far it has done fairly good damage control, announcing that it would not be firing the accountants who foiled the Best Picture Oscar, illustrating loyalty. It has even offered them protection after a tirade of death threats came their way online. It has further taken full responsibility and apologised to the ceremony organisers, viewers and attendees. By not trying to hide their mistake, they hold on to the last scraps of honorability they have. Their PR team are now working overtime to reassure the rest of their business partners that this unfortunate incident – the worst mix up in Oscars history – was a one off.
Whether their relationship with the Oscars will survive is a different story.