PR Disasters
It’s coming to another year’s end, so we’re now accepting media, blogger and public nominations for our annual Top 10 PR Disaster Awards. The scheme highlights the worst examples of bad PR jobs as well as corporate scandals and celebrity gaffes. ‘PR Disasters’ will collate entries right up until midnight on 31 December 2007, and announce the winner early in 2008. Nominations can be submitted by blogging in or emailing your suggestions.
As suggested in my PR disasters book (a great Xmas stocking filler) to qualify as a PR disaster, any incident must have catalysed sustained, negative media coverage.
And as any PR-disaster watcher will tell you, 2007 has been another sterling year for botched PR jobs on the corporate and celebrity fronts. Please send in your favourites, and to jog your memory, you might recall…
The Cartoon Network’s bomb scare marketing stunt;
British Airways’ fuel surcharge fiasco;
Johnson & Johnson’s decision to sue the Red Cross;
Movie pin-up Ralph Fiennes’ Qantas toilet tryst;
US radio broadcaster Don Imus and the ‘nappy-headed ho’s’ slur
Aussie AFL footballer Ben Cousins’ sorry drug-related escapades
Heather Mills McCartney’s sometimes bizarre conduct under stress
There was also:
Fleishman Hillard – the PR specialists saw two of its ex-execs jailed for overbilling
Dr Pepper – a product promotion almost caused the exhumation of an historic graveyard
Ribena – had its vitamin C product claims debunked by two teenage science students
Whole Foods – their blogging CEO praised himself using a fake online identity
BBC – revelations that the UK broadcaster faked results of viewer phone-in competitions
FEMA – had its staff pretend to be news reporters at a badly attended press conference

26 thoughts on “2007 PR DISASTERS – NOMINATIONS OPEN

  1. You know what annoys me slightly about the suggested “disasters” in this post….? Most of them, and I’m not intimately acquainted with all, are not PR disasters but simply ” ou muppet” incidents that probably, if they’d been anywhere near a PR, wouldn’t have happened. Let’s take Mucca. Her PR famously fired her *before* she went down that disastrous route. And I strongly doubt that the PR department were consulted on the BA fuel surcharge decision or could have made a modicum of difference to it even if they had. These awards give PRs a bad name. I would focus on the genuine cock-ups where PRs have given bad advice., or rename them The Reputional Suicide awards.


  2. Point taken and this point of distinction is raised in my book PR disasters, Nikki; but it is a PR disaster that PR found itself so removed from some of these bizarre decisions. Plus, in terms of media labels these all resulted in damage to the relationship between the entity and their public(s), so do qualify. Pity you can’t nominate a tale of PR ineptide for us??
    PS: Am sure Heather’s PR jacked it immediately after her GMTV interview.


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  4. Gerry – the main difference is that American’s assume their gaffes are global (when they are often not).

    It reminds me of when I first arrived and read a news report of an obscure American college upsetting a more fancied and established rival in Football.

    The Quarterback:

    “I’m just proud the world knows what we did here today!”

    Er… no mate, in fact nobody outside of this little country actually gives a damn about your college sporting upset!


  5. Ta Scott; FEMA’s ‘reputation’ precedes it somewhat, ensuring that any gaffe reinforces its bad image. To Nikki’s point on pure PR disasters, Fleishman seeing two of its exec staff jailed for defrauding clients is a pretty big story. The Ribena story was huge downunder, too.


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  7. How about typo’s in your blog site promoting your own book:

    ‘PR Disasters’ will collate entries right up until midnight on 31 December 2007, and announce the winner early in 2007.


  8. I’m amused by the interview with The Age where a local Sony PR representative said that one of the competitors for their PlayStation 3 product was ‘more fun’. (Sadly, most of Sony’s best PR gaffes were in 2006.)


  9. It’s not aussie, but the owners (now former owners) of popular blogging site LiveJournal, SixApart, have had a hell of a year….

    First, they deleted part of there user base pissing off hundreds of affected users on the whim of a group that turned out to be neo-nazi homophobic dominionists, made it worse by not informing their user base of anything for THREE DAYS, but of course, the CEO was happy to speak to the media, meanwhile there user base was flooding them with complaints asking to know what the hell was going on

    Thats just the first implosion that happened this year.

    Then – this is the unbelievable bit – after deleting and few more accounts without warning (never learn do they?), they reported a fanartist to the NCMEC for sexually abusing Harry Potter.

    Oh, and cant forget one of their employees using his account to accused the majority of their user base as pedophiles. Oops…

    That’s just the highlights of the epic fail of 6A 🙂

    Let’s hope the new owners actually have some competent PR…


  10. Angus & Robertson bookstores attempt to offset their incompetence in stock control by charging suppliers to have their books stocked was a minor classic.

    The basic story is covered here with the laugh-out-loud correspondence reproduced in full the next day.

    It might not have made that much of an impression to the general public but in the book trade it made them a global laughing-stock.


  11. One of the best for me was French President Nicolas Sarkozy calling his prese adviser an imbecile while making an interview for 60 Minutes. Lesley Stahl needs a PR rep, In my eyes both were wrong but I mean it just falls back to poor US standards. Sarkozy is not Paris Hilton, We don’t care about his personal life, and If I wanted to know about his divorce I would watch PEOPLE or E! or Entertainment Tonight. not 60 Minutes. If she had kept the questions to a format of maturity then both of them would not have gaffed like this.


  12. Heather Mills. Now there is a woman, who just needs to learn to keep her mouth shut and out of the spot light. There are ways of doing things respectfully and with dignity, and she just hasn’t learnt to do either. She has just made herself look like a total fool, and worse.


  13. Can I just clarify a comment made on Dec 10 (comment #9)? The World Series Of Baseball was once sponsored by a newspaper called ‘The World’. It has nothing to do with an attitude by or of the USA. It’s an oft quoted argument for US bashing but one that is completely incorrect. Sorry for being a pedant but these things have a tendency to grow into something ugly if they’re not corrected. PS, I’m an Aussie.


  14. The price fixing between Amcor and Visy has to be a good nomination. Let’s see, secret meetings in inner city pubs, mobile phones with prepaid cards bought specifically for ‘fixing’ conversations, upper management who were all aware of the arrangement and Amcor’s self-serving rat-out when investigated by the ACCC. Visy is the biggest privately owned company in Australia and having the owner splashed all over the news for being a ‘cheat’ is a huge industry gaffe. It made the president of Carlton Football Club and all round patron of the arts, Richard Pratt look like, well, a pratt. His 2IC Harry Debney had to fall on his sword, claim all responsibility and resign so that Mr Pratt didn’t lose too much face in the debacle.
    That said, the Ribena scandal was fabulous. There goes decades of advertising down the gurgler!


  15. Pingback: The Steve Davis website and media blog » Blog Archive » Online In Sites on fiveAA, Sunday, December 30, 2007

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