The first Academy Awards ceremony (what we call the Oscars) was held in 1929, at a private dinner in Los Angeles, California. Since then it’s come a long way, now considered the most authoritative of awards in the entertainment industry. I like it for its recognition on storytelling, but honestly, I couldn’t care less about the ceremonies. I was forced to watch it three years ago, in 2016, tuned in for 2017, but I couldn’t be bothered in 2018. This year was different.
A slew of important societal topics lit a fire under this years’ award ceremony. There was no host. A movie about my favorite band actually stood a chance of winning. Most importantly: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was finally confronting topics it should have years ago. Diversity has finally hit big in the mainstream, and it breathed new life into - what was almost considered - a dying award show. There are lessons in this for us. Here are the three things Internal Communications can learn from this years’ Academy Awards.
1. Content is king
This year marked the first time since 1989 that the Oscars had no host. After Jimmy Kimmel manned the golden mic for two years in a row, it was now up to Kevin Hart to fit his (sizeable) shoes. Unfortunately for Hart, someone dug through his old tweets, resulting in a public controversy and a lot of (non-)apologies, eventually leading to Hart stepping down as the Oscars host.
A slew of celebrities raised their hands to carry the torch, even if it had to be lit last minute. The Academy then made a brave decision: if we can’t get a single, well-prepared host to ensure the quality of our event, then we will have no host at all. It was the Oscars at 80%.
And it worked.
The ratings for the Oscars surged to break a four-year slump. For the first time in a while, the Oscar awards focused solely on one thing: content. Would a host have made it better? Probably. But was it necessary? Maybe not. So let’s draw some inspiration from this: we don’t need to delay great content to give it more bells and whistles than it potentially needs. The “80% Oscars” were memorable – would that extra 20% really have made everything so much better?
2. Great storytelling inspires entire generations
If you asked my 14 year old niece who Freddy Mercury was before the movie Bohemian Rhapsody came out, she would have probably guessed “a superhero” or “I dunno, a science guy?”. Now though? Now she can’t shut up about him. She knows the lyrics to “Love of my life” better than I do, and I first heard it in the nineties so I should have decades of practice. She’s started to call people “darling” and is trying to convince her mother to have a tattoo of Mercury in his iconic “fist in the air” pose. Not happening.
So how come two-to-three generations later, Queen suddenly surged in popularity? Because Bohemian Rhapsody is an incredible film, and Rami Malek an incredible narrator for the story of Queen. His performance is mesmerizing, leading him to rightfully win the “Best actor” Oscar. Artists and bands like Queen always face the threat of being forgotten when they aren’t making new music anymore – but an entertaining, emotional piece suddenly made Mercury and co. top-of-mind to a generation that has no singular preference towards any musical genre.
Take note if you’re trying to get your corporate story to that elusive “top of mind” state. Surely something epic, with an authentic portrayal that moves people, will only help? I recommend this classic from Johnnie Walker as inspiration – it would make a nice project to converge Internal with External Communications.
So next time you have to tell your corporate story, ask yourself this: What Would Freddy Do?
3. Diversity is the most important topic for Internal Communicators today
Content is only king when it’s relevant, and this year’s Oscar Awards Ceremony was highly topical.
"#OscarsSoWhite, #MeToo and #TimesUp made more people actually watch the Oscars the last couple of years because there was a reason beyond congratulatory back-slapping" says Lauren McMenemy, professional storyteller and pop-culture enthusiast.
2019 was the first year in history that the majority of acting winners were people of diverse background and color. Finally, 2019 also saw women win big at the Oscars. That is a landmark achievement.
We talked about Rami Malek, who’s parents are of Egyptian descent. Regina King took home the award for “Best supporting actor” for her stellar efforts in “If Beale Street could talk”. Green Book won with a bang. In it, Mahershala Ali, one of this generation’s best actors, plays the role Dr. Don Shirley – a phenom of a pianist who wants to do a concert tour in the Deep South, circa 1960s. A time of heavy, heavy segregation. The Academy awarded Green Book with the most coveted Oscar of them all: Best Picture.
Diversity is one of today’s most important topics, everywhere. Make sure you actively celebrate your workforce, including their heritage. As Internal Communicators, it is our job to tell the story of our company to its people. That story isn’t black and white. That story is a colorful one.