A Tale of Two Envelopes…
What happens when 30 million people witness your brand have a meltdown on live television?That’s a question for PriceWaterhouseCooper, the auditors of the Academy Awards – aka the biggest media event of the year.
If you didn’t watch this year’s Oscars, you’ll certainly have heard about them. Over 30 million people worldwide watching on live TV did a collective gasp when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the wrong winner of Best Picture – giving the award to La La Land instead of Moonlight.
In a statement released Monday evening, PwC confirmed that their managing partner Brian Cullinan “mistakenly handed the back-up envelope for Actress in a Leading Role instead of the envelope for Best Picture to presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.”
The phrase “monumental cock-up” doesn’t do it justice. In the blink of an eye, a company’s decades-old reputation for world-class attention to detail became the punchline of a huge international joke.
As disastrous as this scenario is in terms of PR, it probably won’t result in any substantial losses for the London based accountancy giants.
OK, so it has been confirmed Brian Cullinan, the person identified as giving out the envelope, will no longer work on The Oscars. PwC may end up losing their contract with The Academy (which isn’t worth as much money as you might think) and for the foreseeable future, anyone employed by PwC will get a monumental ribbing at any given opportunity, whether they were directly involved or not. And then, like all media scandals, it will all stop.
Why? Because experience shows that consumers (and clients) are far cleverer than you might expect.
Ask yourself this. You’re a CFO of a large company – would you sack your accounting firm because of two mixed-up envelopes at, let’s face it, a completely unimportant event in Hollywood? Probably not. You would, of course, make sure to make fun of your PwC accountant about it until he cried, though.
They’ve always done a stellar job for you, you’ve had fantastic service – why should the error of a couple of overpaid nitwits in America result in a headache for your company? For this reason, we can expect to see very little global comeback from this gaffe. The power of customer loyalty can, we’re sure, rise above this blunder. We’re keen to see what happens next!
It’s got us thinking, though. Is your company equipped with a contingency plan in the event of a brand disaster?
Business leaders can learn a lot from how PwC handled this situation.
Always expect the unexpected
We have insurance policies for everything nowadays. Buildings insurance protects us from a flood, contents insurance might save us in the unfortunate event of a burglary, phone insurance might be called upon to save our credit cards when our iPhones take a tumble into a toilet. But what’s in place to protect our businesses in the event of a PR disaster? Your insurance for this should be an assessment of the worst case scenarios that could happen for your brand at any given time. Account blunders, missing orders, expenses scandals, social media melt downs…or in PwC’s case, wrong envelopes. You can’t predict every single disastrous scenario, but you can outline 10 of those that are most likely, and set about a plan of action in the event of each one.
When you make a mistake, own it…
If PwC didn’t take sole responsibility for the envelopes mix up, they would have done a lot more damage to their brand than what’s already occurred. If you make a mistake (and we all do), don’t try to figure out how you can sweep it under the red carpet. Customers respect companies that take immediate steps to correct their mistakes, even if they’ve been impacted in a negative way.
..and then apologise
PriceWaterhouseCooper issued a groveling apology for the embarrassment that they caused. It may not have changed the outcome, but at least they didn’t spend days trying to deflect what really happened. This is an essential business lesson for leaders to learn. When you make a mistake, be prepared to apologise – even if a part of you doesn’t think your mistake is really worthy of further discussion.
Every company screws up at some point. A little slip-up or a huge humdinger, anything can happen because – believe it or not – companies are made up of humans beings. And it’s in our human nature to be forgiving to those who deserve it, which, let’s be honest, PwC do – even if they do now own the
Academy Award for Best Cock Up.
The Monachie Project’s consumer research consultancy takes the guesswork out of identifying your customer’s needs. We can tell you exactly what your target customer wants, and how your business decisions affect your brand image – perhaps PwC could have done with some help from us over the last 5 days! To see how we can help you connect with your customers in the best way, get in touch for a friendly, no obligation chat!