Final Jeopardy question: An acknowledgment of one’s fault or error.
Answer: What is mea culpa?
During the opening of the March 8 episode of Jeopardy, the show’s “final” scores were displayed on the screen – before the game began.
The scores appeared just after host Mayim Bialik introduced the players and wished them luck.
To recap, the final scores were displayed as the host was in the process of kicking off the show.
How did that happen?
The pre-recorded show often edits or re-shoots the monologue if something needs to be corrected. Executive producer Michael Davies offered an extensive explanation and apology during this “Inside Jeopardy!” podcast episode.
“We do occasionally pick up monologues for some reason. Sometimes there’s a fact that’s incorrect, sometimes there’s just a performance issue. So, we pick it up at the end of the show.”
The gaffe riled Jeopardy fans who took to Twitter to express their confusion.
While this is not a PR crisis, Jeopardy handles the situation directly and transparently.
We have covered mishaps before – especially PR meltdowns and how to manage them – and there are a few positive lessons to be learned here. The executive team at Jeopardy addressed this mistake quickly and tactfully, in an effort to re-build any trust that was lost among their viewers.
First. They owned it. Acknowledging what happened and providing an explanation is paramount.
“Right off the bat, apologies to our entire audience,” Davies said. “We totally blew it at the top of the show. We made a horrible error where we revealed the final scores at the end in the opening cutaway shot during Mayim’s monologue.”
The second component of dealing with a mishap is conveying empathy to reinforce the apology.
“There is a cutaway shot during there, of course it should be standard procedure. And it is supposed to be standard procedure that we take the scores in the podiums back to their original level, but it didn’t happen,” Davies explained. “This was then not caught in post [production]; it was not caught in the final QC [quality control]. There are so many elements that should check this.”
From a leadership perspective, Davies took responsibility and made no excuses, nor did he point fingers and name any specific individual.
“My whole thing is to always focus not on what happened and why did this happen in order to punish people; it’s what happened and why did it happen so that we can build a protocol to make sure it never happens again,” added Davies.
Taking action is the next important step to make things right. Communicating the action plan – early and often – and reiterating the process going forward is vital.
“We have now put in place a new series of protocols that will prevent this from happening again.”
Compared to the larger issues our country and the world are facing, this situation is largely a non-issue. However, Davies and his Jeopardy team expressed genuine humility, apologized profusely, and are on the right track to rebuild any credibility that may have been lost.
Humility is the secret sauce of any apology and making things right. Hopefully more leaders in business and government take notice, and use this formula to make amends if (or when) they have to.