Mistakes happen, even at major events, as the Oscars 2017 proved. What can communications professionals learn from the blunder?
- Even the most prestigious events will be best remembered for the things that go wrong.
It is the event manager’s nightmare scenario. Of course good planning will prevent most problems but sometimes an issue will only reveal itself on the night and then you need to think on your feet. One of the most memorable ones I was involved in was a news conference attended by the prime minister and three cabinet members. The stage set, that was provided by another company, presented a gift to a mischievous photographer. I spent the entire conference trying to ensure that part of the word ‘competitive’ could not be photographed above the head of any of the politicians. No doubt we would have made the front page but we would also be remembered for the wrong reasons.
- Any team is only as good as its weakest link.
Often the simplest jobs (handing out the cards) are just as important as the more complex ones. It’s why, in a successful company, the most junior members of staff are treated just as well as the senior ones.
- Good design can make or break even the strongest product.
The layout of the winner’s card was truly dreadful. The (possibly) slightly inebriated and elderly presenters (perhaps reluctant to wear reading glasses) would have struggled to see that the card was for the wrong movie, as the category was printed in tiny letters at the bottom. If it had been at the top, and in larger, bolder font, the mistake would not have happened.
- When things do go wrong, blame will fly around and will be hotly debated.
PWC stepped in quickly to admit that they were responsible, they apologised unreservedly and are now reviewing their systems. In doing so PWC have done all they can to take the heat out of the story, but of course it is too big to go away immediately. The companies who continue to be criticised in the media, over an extended period, are those that try to pass the blame on to others or pretend nothing has happened. A Today presenter once told me that in all his years on the show only one CEO had admitted they were at fault, apologised to customers and advised that they were doing all they could to ensure the mistake never happened again. It immediately killed the interview, there was nothing more to say or demand of the CEO.