How to transform the Michael Bay meltdown into a PR save

January 7, 2014
michael bay presenting

Of all the news flowing from CES this week, the biggest story to date is the onstage meltdown of movie director Michael Bay during a Samsung press conference introducing its new line of gorgeous, curved TVs. Bay got lost in the teleprompter, flubbed his lines, and then slunk from the stage to smirks from the audience.

Watch the clip below:

It all serves as a good reminder that the best-laid schemes of mice and Transformers often go awry. And this was a great-laid scheme. No doubt, Samsung had planned and plotted for months to leverage the storytelling and star power of the action movie director. Heck, who better to explain why anyone would need a 110-inch TV than someone who makes larger-than-life movies?

In the end, Samsung did nothing wrong — and neither did Bay. I mean, even Tom Brady has off days. It brought to my mind a number of easy-to-forget lessons that can forever transform any live disaster into a humanizing event that wins audiences, attention, and kudos from the public:

We are a forgiving lot. Especially when it comes to public speaking. In fact, the #1 fear of most executives is the naked exposure of live presenting. So, most audiences are likely to overlook an onstage meltdown, more than they would any other corporate calamity. So keep your humanity and humility. Express your apologies. Ask for their understanding. For example, something like: “Now you know why I spend my time behind the camera,” would have been the ultimate empathy-eliciting line for Bay.

Memorize your words as much as possible. Hey, teleprompters are great, but they can also provide a sense of false security. Bay claims that he misspoke lines intended for his Samsung co-host. All that could have been averted if Bay would have practiced, rehearsed, and memorized his own script.

When all else fails, turn to passion. No doubt, Bay felt straight-jacketed by the script and would have done much better to simply speak from the heart and talk about his experience as a movie director — what lights his bulb and gets him out of bed in the morning. He seemed unsure of how to connect his love of movies with the Samsung product. Ironically, he didn’t have to. Simply by explaining his love of delivering larger-than-life stories to the screen, he could have accomplished Samsung’s goal.

Making lemons. Wouldn’t it have been great if Samsung had been nimble enough to make light of the situation, and quickly produce a follow-up video with Bay laughing at himself? Such rapid response would have extended the conversation, allowing Samsung to have a second day of media attention. With all the access to talent that Bay and Samsung have at their disposal, I could imagine a quick top-ten advice piece on rebounding from public fails. That most certainly would have won empathy and attention, and put the focus back on Samsung and its new line up of 2014 TVs.

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