And the Winners Are … Honesty and Transparency after an Infamous Awards Show Mix-up

Mistakes happen.

And, Hollywood’s on-stage mistake naming “La La Land” the Best Picture of the Year at the 89th Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 26, arguably was the most-watched mistake of the 21st century.

Hollywood veterans Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the film they thought had won on live TV before some 32.9 million viewers.  But they were given the wrong envelope.

Rhudy & Co. presented our own "Oscars" to our team at our holiday party in January.

Rhudy & Co. presented our own "Oscars" to our team at our holiday party in January.

The mistake wasn’t recognized until the middle of “La La Land” acceptance speeches. Just like the producer, directors and actors of “Moonlight,” everyone appeared truly stunned. We all wondered, “Did that just happen?”

Clearly, Beatty and Dunaway weren’t to blame for the monumental mix up, despite funnyman Jimmy Kimmel asking, “Warren, what did you do?” Poor Steve Harvey got mentioned by name (in reference to his Miss Universe mix-up). Of course, Kimmel was joking as comedians do, even in awkward moments.

How people respond to those once-in-a-lifetime moments with clear and compelling communications makes a difference.

In the midst of chaos
“La La Land” producers Jordan Horowitz and Marc Platt shared acceptance speeches for an award they didn’t win, but it was Horowitz who immediately responded with candor, honesty and humility once he knew the true winner of Best Picture. Horowitz dramatically returned to the center stage to declare, “‘Moonlight’ won. Guys, guys, I’m sorry. No. There’s a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture.”

In that split-second decision, Horowitz showed his integrity and character, and the world noticed. The next day, The Washington Post detailed the Oscar glitch in an article with a headline reading: “‘La La Land’ producer Jordan Horowitz is the truth-teller we need right now.”

So true.

Horowitz was emphatic, understanding and decisive in the midst of chaos.

These are qualities of great leaders. In fact, the 36-year-old couldn’t have been more gracious and sincere. He was the real star on Sunday.

Emma Stone, the leading lady in the six-time Oscar-winning musical, showed grace and humility in her remarks back stage, along with others involved in the movie.

PwC rises
From a communications standpoint, the employees of PwC (formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers), the accounting firm, also demonstrated star qualities. The firm that has been leading the Oscars’ balloting process on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 83 years took full responsibility for the envelope glitch.

PwC provides accounting, tax advisory and consulting services to some of the world’s largest companies and appears to have handled the unfortunate event as well as could be expected. One of the PwC partners allegedly posting a backstage photo to Twitter before the mix-up and then deleting the image likely didn’t help.

Here are four takeaways for communicators about what PwC got right and how they could’ve improved their response.

  1. PwC owned the mistake, didn’t cast blame and quickly apologized.
    PwC quickly determined and shared the cause of the chaotic moment. Perhaps the PwC apology should have been the night of the event, but clearly the firm needed to get the facts straight rather than rush a statement, which posted to the Oscar website in the middle of the night. 
  2. PwC communicated clearly, but it could have been quicker.
    Some critics said the two PwC partners knew immediately about the blunder, and didn’t react fast enough.

    PwC opted to use Twitter for the apology. However, their YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ pages show no other updates. It doesn’t appear PwC issued a formal news release.
  3. PwC communicated with its employees.
    According to the New York Times, PwC’s U.S. chairman, who was in the live audience, immediately got involved. On Monday, he reportedly emailed employees an update. Keeping employees informed during a crisis is critical. They’re your frontline ambassadors.
  4. PwC is being proactive.
    The company’s snafu is still in the news three days later. They’ve given media interviews to share their side of the story. A video message from the chairman, a senior leader or the employees would convey transparency and solidify the firm’s messages. According to news reports, the firm’s top leader is “working with the Academy to repair the relationship."

Reportedly, the two PwC partners involved will not be back next year, but let’s hope Hollywood gives PwC another chance to shine and regain its trust.

After all, Hollywood loves a good come-back story.

Jonathan Rhudy and his wife and business partner Michele presented 17 Oscars of their own at the recent Rhudy & Co. holiday party.

Each co-worker received a unique, Oscar-inspired accolade for their unique contributions – from “most willing to bring order to chaos” to “most likely to dazzle (and hug) a client.”

Each co-worker received a unique, Oscar-inspired accolade for their unique contributions – from “most willing to bring order to chaos” to “most likely to dazzle (and hug) a client.”

Richmond Women to Give Two $100,000 Grants to #RVA Nonprofits

Rhudy & Co. is proud to have supported Impact 100 over the past five years. It's the Big Give x2 for Impact 100 Richmond.

The end-of-the-year celebration for Impact 100 on May 13, the Big Give, is like Christmas for the RVA nonprofit community. This year, the Big Give is twice as exciting — like Christmas and a birthday all wrapped in one.

About Impact 100

Impact 100, in case you haven’t heard, brings together hundreds of women with huge hearts who each give $1,000 to form $100,000 grants that are given to deserving local nonprofits. Donating money to any nonprofit is appreciated. But bringing together hundreds of women and combining those funds can be transformative.

So, what’s so different about this year? 2014 marks the fifth year of Impact 100 and the first time the event will feature TWO $100,000 transformative grants. That’s right: two! More than 200 RVA women joined Impact 100 this year; each pledging their money to change lives in our community.

How it works

RVA nonprofits submit a grant proposal for one of five focus areas. Then Impact 100 grants committee members select nonprofits to visit and then choose finalists. This year’s finalists include:

YWCA of Richmond received a $100,000 Impact 100 RVA grant in 2013.Finalists will present their nonprofit tonight and explain how the grant money could make a difference. Then, Impact 100 members cast a live vote and decide who will receive the funds. This year, the top two nonprofits will go home with $100,000.

It’s exhilarating to think that in just five years Impact 100 has given more than a half a million dollars and can offer TWO $100,000 grants in its fifth year!

I am honored to have served as the chairperson these last five years.

When I kicked off the idea that became Impact 100, I wanted to create a special kind of organization that was open to anyone who was interested in a smart community investment. I am gratified to see so many smart, generous RVA women come together to make this vision a reality.

When she's not inspiring Richmond women give to give, Talley Baratka is busy helping Rhudy & Co. clients communicate in bold and creative ways.

Feeding the Media Machine for the 100th Anniversary of Flight

Today marks 110 years since Orville Wright flew at 10:35 a.m. on Dec. 17, 1903, on a sandy beach dune in North Carolina. The two bicycle-building brothers from Dayton, Ohio, fired up a four-cylinder engine and embarked on the first manned, sustained, powered flight. Learn about the media frenzy surrounding the 100th anniversary of flight in 2003 from the media relations lead for EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk program.
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What Goes Through Your Head at the End of a Marathon?

For the elite runners who finished Monday’s Boston Marathon, congratulations. For those maimed by the shrapnel or couldn’t finish in Boston, may you heal to run another race. For those who stopped to comfort a fellow runner or assist a spectator, thank you. For all those affected by Monday’s tragic events, may you experience a little bit of runner’s amnesia. I hope the good parts of the race – the cheering fans, the friendly volunteers and beautiful Boston course – be what you take with you.
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34 Minutes in the Dark + Creative Communicators + Willing Executives = ‘Super’ Social Media

When the lights dimmed on the 49ers and Ravens during the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII, Twitter and Facebook screens lit up with rants and raves. With 13:22 left in the third quarter, Baltimore led San Francisco 28-6 and no one knew for sure what was happening or what effect this would have on the game. Like millions of others seeking answers during major news events, I jumped on Twitter. With no quick explanation for the sudden outage in the New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome (other than Beyonce’s high-wattage, half-time performance), social media exploded.
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