11 takeaways for PR pros from last night’s Oscars

What was a predictable and plodding affair for some was win for others after last year’s awards gaffe. Here’s what veteran communicators can learn from the big night.

They came; they schmoozed; they were honored for their work.

While the stars glittered in their gowns and the best films of the year took home accolades, there are always takeaways for those of us in the PR world.

Communicators, what lessons can be learned from the Oscars? Here are 11 takeaways:

1. Grab attention with your opening.

The Academy Awards are known for their opening numbers. The ones that stand out in our memories tend to be those that flopped (think Rob Lowe singing with Snow White—or Seth McFarlane’s opening song and dance number).

Host Jimmy Kimmel stepped outside the box with last night’s opening, featuring retro-style black and white news clips, with funny headlinesfrom today.

For Emma Stone, who claimed an Oscar last year for “La La Land,” he asked: “Will she do it again tonight?” followed by a “No.”

For “Darkest Hour” star and nominee Gary Oldman, Kimmel offered: “If you loved Gary in ‘Forrest Gump,’ you’re thinking of Gary Sinise.”

2. Speak to the issues – but keep it light.

The last thing most people who watch the Oscars want to see is three and a half hours of heavy-handed political commentary. But, Jimmy Kimmel managed to work in issues like MeToo and Times Up without missing a beat, making jokes that kept the mood lighthearted.

“I remember a time when the major studios didn’t believe a woman or a minority could open a superhero movie – and the reason I remember that time is because it was March of last year,” Kimmel quipped.

3. If it’s a special occasion, go big.

The awards telecast went big for its 90th anniversary with a super glittery stage that sparkled throughout the night. While ostentatious, it fit the occasion, proving you can get away with a little glam if it’s a big night.

4. Stunts work.

To liven up the evening, Kimmel did a bit last night to thank movie goers for their support. It involved gathering a collection of stars in attendance like Gal Gadot, Margot Robbie and Mark Hamill and marching them into a theater full of moviegoers to hand out snacks. A couple of the actors were armed with hot dog cannons that fired sandwiches into the crowd.

The stunt drew praise as a fun way to break up the event. As the Los Angeles Times reported this morning, “Armie Hammer had a hot dog cannon at the Oscars and nothing elsematters.”

5. Do your homework—and check your facts.

The “In Memoriam” reel is always a part of the show—although it often seems to be a magnet for criticism.

Last year, the reel included the wrong photo (there was a picture of Jan Chapman—who’s still living—when the name Janet Patterson, a costume designer, appeared).

This year, the reel is taking heat for omitting some major names like Adam West and John Mahoney. These weren’t low-profile actors, so whoever compiled the reel should be checking—and double-checking—their work.

6. Think of a different way to tell your story.

One of the standout moments of last night’s show was a montage of diverse filmmakers featuring female director Greta Gerwig, screenwriter and actor Kumail Nanjani and others talking about why more diversity is needed in Hollywood. Some thought this was a much more effective way to tell the story, versus airing a montage of films they’ve worked on.

7. Sometimes a second chance is in order.

Last year’s Best Picture envelope debacle made great fodder for host Kimmel, who referenced it throughout the show.

Then, when it was time to announce this year’s Best Picture winner, out came Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty—the same team who were at the center of last year’s fiasco. This year, lo and behold, they managed to get it right. Although Guillermo Del Toro did check to make sure when he came up on the stage to accept the award, then smiled and nodded after he’d checked to make sure “The Shape of Water” was listed.

8. If you fail, take steps to correct what didn’t work.

This year the envelopes were printed with the category in large letters – perhaps to avoid another mistake. It went off without a hitch. Sometimes you must tweak the process to get it right.

9. Run long and you may lose your audience .

The Oscar broadcast is known for running long. Last night’s show was scheduled for three hours, but it ended running nearly 45 minutes over. Oomph.

If you’re producing an event, try to stay on time. If you see you’re running long, take steps to reign it in before it gets out of hand. Otherwise, you may lose your audience.

10. Save the best for last.

If you watched last night, you may have noticed they saved the popular “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” as the final performance of the evening in the Best Song category. Why? It was the most mainstream and recognizable of those nominated.

Keala Settle’s performance was one of the most anticipated moments of the night, and she brought down the house. So, if you’re trying to keep people tuned in, keep them wanting more by saving the best for last.

11. After a debacle, maybe a ho-hum event is a win.

This year’s show has been deemed a bit dull. But, after last year’s chaos with the Best Picture mix-up, the producers might be pleased with the staid atmosphere.

“It only stands to reason that the most surprising Oscars might be followed by the least surprising Oscars,” says an NPR article, “A Year After Envelope Pandemonium, A Ho-Hum Night Is Just What TheOscars Ordered.”

“There are probably a lot of people adjacent to the Oscars who just didn’t want any surprises Sunday night,” the article concludes. “And the biggest takeaway from the evening — the good news and the bad news — is that there weren’t any.”

Michelle Garrett is a PR consultant and writer at Garrett Public Relations. Follow her on Twitter @PRisUs or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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