Whether he was scared, stoned, or just plain in over his head, James Franco likely woke up the morning after co-hosting the Academy Awards® with the words of Will Ferrell ringing in his ears: “Did that go the way you thought it was gonna go? Nope.”
Franco delivered a stiff and lackluster performance behind expressions that ranged from Alfred E. Neuman to Jeff Spicoli (but without the intellectual wit) for which he was universally and mercilessly slammed. Everyone from Hollywood insiders to bloggers to water-cooler critics took their shots.
Overnight he went from Academy Award® nominee/Yale PhD candidate James Franco to suspected stoner loser.
Nope. That definitely did not go the way he thought it was gonna go.
Such hero-to-goat moments – and I’m talking about those that have nothing to do with salacious scandal – have many a big name or brand attached to them:
David Letterman, Christina Aguilera, Bill Buckner, and BP are just a few – all viewed favorably by their peers and the public as competent, even excellent, in their disciplines, but who were tripped up or brought down by circumstances, hubris, inattention to detail, a complete misreading of their audience, or a combination of all of the above.
Mistakes will happen. Not every situation can be controlled. But the minefield should be cleared to the best of everyone’s ability. The first step to overcoming a public embarrassment that can be costly to your brand is to avoid it in the first place. There are the obvious “don’ts” such as:
1. Don’t roll out the product before it’s ready
2. Don’t hide behind obstruction
3. Don’t countenance malfeasance
4. Don’t come unprepared
5. Don’t show up stoned
The less obvious “don’ts” can require some soul searching or ego busting:
6. Don’t take on a job you know deep down you can’t handle
7. Don’t let others talk you into a commitment you can’t keep
8. Don’t listen only to those who agree with you
9. Don’t listen only to those who tell you what you want to hear
But let’s say you’ve taken all the necessary steps to guard against bad reviews and crippling headlines, yet it didn’t go the way you planned. How do you get over it?
If mistakes were made, admit them. Clearly. Everyone knows what the definition of “is” is, so don’t be cute about declaring culpability. If you can inject humor appropriately, do it. The key word is “appropriately.” (David Letterman rarely lets an opportunity to deprecate his own performance at the Academy Awards® go by.)
Change the conversation by giving ’em something else to talk about. Yes, this misstep may always be part of your bio or company history, but a string of sincere, redeeming deeds, outstanding performances, excellent products, or strong reviews can relegate it to a footnote.
It’s not easy to face the world after a public hazing. But people and companies do it every day. The ones who survive and thrive learn from their mistakes and move forward.
Others get fired from Two and a Half Men.
Felicia Knight is President of Knight Vision International, LLC: www.KnightVisionInternational.com
Image: Cristal Castle