During the 89th Annual Oscars Telecast, an unprecedented error occurred when La La Land was accidentally named Best Picture in lieu of the real winner, Moonlight.  We now know that the presenters, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, were handed the wrong envelope by the official tabulating party, accounting firm PwC – which read “Emma Stone for La La Land.” But mishaps happened before, and after, the actual nexus of the crisis occurred. We’ve got the Boardroom Breakdown for you — complete with step-by-step crisis communications analyses for this multi-faceted fumble.


Warren Beatty, who presented the Best Picture honor alongside Faye Dunaway, opened the envelope to announce the big winner. He saw “Emma Stone – La La Land” and knew something was amiss, and passed the envelope onto Dunaway. She looked at it quickly and saw “La La Land” — missing Emma Stone’s name in haste and under pressure – and thus confirmed the error.

Analysis: Warren Beatty knew there was an error of some sort when he first saw the envelope. Perhaps he thought he was having a senior moment – poor eye sight or some sort of hallucination. He assumed he was crazy or just seeing things, instead of the possibility that something might actually be wrong. So he threw his co-presenter under the bus too, instead of going straight to the source and asking for help.

Lesson: Investigate. Don’t assume you are in the wrong outright because chances are you likely aren’t crazy! Work to get to the bottom of the situation immediately instead of taking the fall prematurely. And never put your colleague on the spot, because they may crack under pressure. There is a difference between asking for help and deflecting responsibility.


The Moment: PwC  According to the NyTimes, after the PwC partners who manage the voting process realized the wrong winner was announced, “they notified the stage manager, which set in motion a chaotic scene watched by the celebrity crowd in attendance and tens of millions of viewers on television.Yet it still took more than two minutes between Ms. Dunaway announcing “La La Land” as best picture and an announcement from the “La La Land” producers that “Moonlight” was in fact the winner.” The firm released a short statement of apology early Monday morning, and the US Chairman and senior partner Tim Ryan offered further explanation and apology later in the day.

Analysis: PwC waited too long – as in, the entire team of La La Land got onto the stage too long – to intervene. And in the age of twitter and social media, Ryan should’ve been out to the press way earlier with further explanations and apologies, even if it was just a tweet.

Lesson: Don’t wait. Don’t wait. Do. Not. Wait. PwC should’ve never let that much time go by before they corrected the error. If you see something, say something, as they say! Because like Beatty, chances are you’re not crazy.

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