Award in Hand, Foot in Mouth

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Posted At: February 18, 2013 8:00 P.M.
by Lindsey Green

There is no time of the year quite like awards season for public relations practitioners in the entertainment industry. While simply being nominated for an award is in itself excellent publicity, awards ceremonies can also enter the PR danger zone known as acceptance speeches.

“So, a declaration that I’m a little nervous about but maybe not quite as nervous as my publicist right now, huh Jennifer? But I’m just going to put it out there, right?”

Up until this point at the 2013 Golden Globes, things were looking great for Jodie Foster and her publicist. The notoriously private Foster was accepting the Cecille B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement and looking fantastic at 50, then…BOOM. All of a sudden, she officially comes out of the closet (and, from the looks of it, without notifying her publicist) and the media goes into a frenzy. As I watched, all I could think about was poor Jennifer and the round-the-clock work she was about to encounter, simply because her client made a spur-of-the-moment announcement.

Anne Hathaway is the heavily favored winner for next weekend’s Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Les Miserables. However, Hathaway is also in the running for worst acceptance speech after an already rough awards season. She started off her Critics’ Choice Movie Awards speech last month with “This is a bittersweet moment for me because I have this award but you spelled my name wrong. It is with an ‘e.’ It’s probably in bad taste for me to point that out here.”

Yes, Anne. Fixating on a minor error instead of humbly accepting a huge honor is almost certainly always in bad taste. Amazingly, Hathaway continued to make faux pas after faux pas at following awards shows, from making a bad joke about her co-star vomiting backstage at the BAFTAs to referring to her newly presented Golden Globe as a “lovely blunt object that I will forever more use as a weapon against self-doubt.” Ouch.

With live television, all it seems to take is a little bit of nerves or perhaps just one extra glass of champagne to get a celebrity to blurt out something that will take months of good PR to recover. Add a celebrity-sized ego and they’re on the fast track to being Kanye West at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

The lesson to be learned from all of these blunders is to always be prepared. Make sure that your celebrity client knows what they’re going to say and that they fully understand the consequences of even one tiny remark gone wrong. Short, sweet and genuine speeches usually work the best and occasionally they can even serve as a wave of new and positive publicity. Anne Hathaway and all of the other Oscar nominees should look to Kelly Clarkson and her acceptance speech from the Grammys last weekend as an example of humble and genuine gratitude.

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