You may think, “#OscarsSoWhite happened so long ago. Why is this even a blog title right now?”
Have you ever seen a train wreck of a situation happen for a company and wonder who has to deal with it? Have you seen the issues with Pepsi, Sean Spicer, and United within the last couple weeks? Crisis Management is one of the most important facets of PR, and #OscarsSoWhite is a prime example of people who tried to deal with a crisis well.
Can anyone ever do anything perfectly? Of course not. Can we learn a thing or two about damage control when we work for companies that set themselves in the middle of the public eye? Absolutely.
#OscarsSoWhite helps us to see the steps a company, or in this case The Academy, take in order to come back from a situation that could have made people scoff at the idea of the Oscars for a long time to come. However, after a year of a mess, The Academy was able to put out a response after the 2016 Academy Awards, and they also were able to make a turn for the better during the 2017 Oscars.
So what did they do?
- Confront the situation. Some companies decide not to say anything, and that may be the worst thing you could possibly do, aside from saying more terrible things. However, the Academy came out with a statement when they were under fire for having all-white nominees for two years in a row. They stated the facts and started a dialogue with the public. They released the following statement on Twitter (the best form of social media when in a crisis):
A statement from Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs pic.twitter.com/Nqhgc7sbqG
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) January 19, 2016
- Actions speak louder than words. The president of the Academy announced in that message that the Academy would be seeking to diversify their membership, and while it hasn’t been a drastic change, it has been a slow and steady change that they have clearly worked on.
- Time is of the essence. These were actions that took place within the week. The Academy had called together their Board of Governors for the association and released this statement. In it they said,
The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up. These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”
- Actions speak louder than words pt. 2. During the Oscars of 2017, actors who were not white were nominated for Oscars. Among those nominated were 3 black actresses nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and a black actor and actress were in the running for Best Actress and Best Actor. However, the greatest accomplishment to note was Moonlight, with a predominantly black cast, won the Best Picture, and both Supporting Actress and Supporting Actor Oscars were taken home by Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali.
- Perhaps the greatest thing we can learn though: Leave them talking…about something good. The night of the 2017 Oscars left people talking because the Best Picture was first, mistakenly, awarded to La La Land, and revoked to be handed to the cast of Moonlight. There is the smallest chance this was an accident, but there is a greater chance this was the Academy explicitly showing, “Look, we are taking this Oscar from an all-white cast and making a drastic change by handing the most prized Oscar to a cast of minorities.”
This may have been the most brilliant comeback I’ve ever experienced in terms of organizations with a voice in the arts making an actual difference and strides in diversity. What a moment. What a cast. What beautiful crisis management.