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The Oscars in Crisis
You don’t need any more context to know we’re talking about last year’s Academy Awards show, when actor Will Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.
With the Oscars returning this Sunday, the Academy is eager to prepare for any unexpected crises and communicate that it’s doing everything in its power to prevent such a stunt this year.
That’s why the Oscars announced it would hire a crisis team for this year’s ceremony.
Some outlets teased the Oscars for trying to plan for something so unpredictable.
Who could have predicted one the world’s most bankable stars would assault a beloved presenter? Who could have guessed a few years ago that two members of Hollywood royalty would announce the wrong Best Picture winner?
A Script for Unscripted Controversies
No one. But that’s the point of crisis planning.
Crisis planning at any organization isn’t about trying to predict what’s going to go wrong – although that’s part of it.
It’s about putting plans in place to streamline responses and developing a messaging framework in advance.
CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Bill Kramer spelled this out in a recent interview with Time.
“These crisis plans—the crisis communication teams and structures we have in place—allow us to say this is the group that we have to gather very quickly. This is how we all come together. This is the spokesperson. This will be the statement.”
Kramer said the crisis team has already been put to good use after controversy surrounding a Best Actress nomination for indie actor Andrea Riseborough, who beat out several high profile performances from women of color in the last year.
Still, the larger crisis facing the Oscars in recent years is declining viewership. The act of hiring a crisis team in itself sends a message, and Kramer and company have taken other steps in an attempt to quelch controversy during Sunday’s show.
It’s been a good way to generate a little coverage ahead of the show, which showrunners are hoping is not just controversy-free, but entertaining as well.