By now, everyone’s aware of the human error at the Oscars Sunday night that led to Faye Dunaway reading the wrong best picture winner — La La Land.
And, social media has not been kind to Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that handled Oscar voting and tabulation for eight decades.
But as mistakes, scandals and crises go, this is not huge. Most experts say the mix-up could cost the second-largest American accounting firm its Oscar gig, but it won’t hurt it with corporate customers.
The bottom line is safe.
This wasn’t a scandal, involving voter fraud — or even Russian hacking. This was a simple screw-up. The wrong envelope went out on stage. Plain as day when you watch the replay. Moonlight [right] won for best picture, fair and square. No one took anything away and the fix was fast.
If some nefarious Price Waterhouse partner had rigged the vote, or skewed the decisions in some way with overt cheating, that would undermine the company. You don’t want to be the PWC partner who messed up, but it’s not the end of the world.
To the company’s credit, it apologized immediately, did its best to explain what caused the mistake and, you can be sure, talked to the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences about how this would never happen again.
In 2008, when the economy was collapsing and Too Big to Fail banks had to turn out their pockets, major American accounting firms were shown to be complicit with the banks’ creative bookkeeping. That’s when they took hits to their reputation.
This was an individual mistake; not a corporate one. Further, it was not the sort of error that can be easily tied back to a bad corporate culture.
This is an embarrassment, not a crisis for PWC.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Senior Vice President/Managing Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.