Here is my prediction: if I was in Vegas, I would wager that website traffic to international accounting services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is seeing an unexpected bump this week. Did you know much about the company until last night’s EPIC Oscars blunder? Did you know that they are solely responsible for tabulating and coordinating the announcement of the Academy’s voting process? I would bet you know now.
I also imagine the PwC press room has been a hot bed of chaos since Faye Dunaway announced the wrong Best Picture winner last night. Questions are bouncing off the walls: How did this happen? What should we say about it? What do we do now?
This is the second-largest professional services firm in the world. What does this error mean for them? When your reputation is built on being renowned for accuracy, integrity, and reliability, what do you do when 34.4 million people watch the exact opposite thing happen on national TV? Having taken charge of the Oscars’ golden envelopes for 83 years, there are already calls for Hollywood to find new accountants abounding on social media.
The answer to all of these questions lies in PwC’s brand values.
No matter the size of your organization, your brand is based on your values. Who are you and what do you say about yourselves to the world? What matters to you the most?
The wonderful thing about values is that they tell your customers what they can expect from you and also help you figure out what to do when things go wrong.
Here’s a great example. In 2011, a Red Cross staffer tweeted about getting drunk on Dogfish Head beer on a Friday night. Except, she accidentally tweeted from the Red Cross’ main account rather than her own. (FAIL.) In an immediate response, the Red Cross took the tweet down, but screenshots already existed. So what did the organization do? They sent a funny tweet acknowledging the error and partnered with Dogfish Head to donate proceeds from beer sales back to the organization. It was swift, on-message and in complete alignment with The Red Cross’ most firmly held value: We are here to raise resources to help those in need.
While a deep dive of PwC’s website this morning did not reveal a specific values statement (some companies do include them), there is a strong focus on people. In their own words: “Every day, PwC strives to enrich the lives of clients we serve, people we employ and citizens in our communities.”
They talk about diversity, inclusion and relieving the world’s problems through intentional corporate responsibility.
Unfortunately, their gaffe robbed Moonlight of its earned and deserved moment on stage. This is a movie notable for its incredible look at the experience of growing up poor, black and gay in America, brought to life by a black writer/director, cast, and crew.
Branding specialist Nigel Currie is quoted in the LA Times this morning saying that their mistake is “as bad a mess-up as you could imagine. They had a pretty simple job to do and messed it up spectacularly.”
To both save face and their mission in the world, PwC needs to act fast. And to do that, they need to go back to their values. What do they hold dear as a firm? And how should those values dictate their next steps?
If transparency and responsiveness are important to them, then their reaction should be public and quick. If accountability and integrity are firmly held values, then both their internal and external discussions should be grounded in those things.
Companies survive disasters. After the hysteria dies down today and the social media world moves on, the question will not be what happened? It will be: How did PwC respond to what happened?
And the answer to that is the most important one.
Image Caption: “We lost, by the way.” CREDIT: CNN Money via ABC