Reviewing the candidates and numbers for 2013’s Annual PR Disasters Awards is proving challenging; the feeling is that sport may very much dominate the field rather than previous years which saw government and corporate PR disasters abound. Just to whet your appetite, prospective candidates (in no particular order yet) for the Awards include:
Political expense abuse claims
Tom Waterhouse/Gai Waterhouse/John Singleton snafu
Essendon Bombers* performance drug scandal
MP Geoff Shaw court and stakeholder skirmishes
Collingwood boss Eddie Maguire’s King Kong gaffe
Myer’s Bernie Brookes NDIS pronouncements
VW car recall
Australian government phone spy scandal with SBY
Mark Textor tweet
Cronulla Sharks doping allegations
Young political candidate media gaffes
What stands out for you as the Aussie PR blunder of the last year?
The Australian Labor Party has secured top position in our annual list of PR Disasters. After research by CyberChatter, the ALP has secured three top five placings on the list of the most talked about PR nightmares of 2012, a year rife with political PR glitches. So, without any further ado, here you go (biggest disaster first):
1. Carbon tax– Arguably Julia Gillard’s most unpopular decision since her time as Prime Minister. This legislation caused a nation-wide uproar talked about in traditional media, online forums and Twitter.
2. Alan Jones– During a speech at the 2012 Liberal Club President’s Dinner, the Sydney broadcaster said that Ms Gillard’s father ”died of shame” because of the ”lies” she told. Although Mr Jones later apologised to the PM, a number of his breakfast radio program sponsors pulled their advertisements from 2GB after a major social media campaign.
3. 2Day FM– Presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian’s on-air antics preceded the suicide of British nurse Ms Saldanha, who took her own life after being tricked into forwarding a prank phone call from the pair posing as Prince Charles and The Queen.
4. AWU Slush Fund– Julia Gillard’s credibility was affected amid reports she assisted former boyfriend and union colleague Bruce Wilson in the theft and misuse of significant funds.
5. Tent Embassy Riots– One of the PM’s staff lost his job after admitting he informed protesters of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s whereabouts at a 2012 Australia Day function, amid claims that Abbott had called for the Aboriginal tent embassy to be torn down.
6. Peter Slipper– Mr Slipper was ultimately removed as house speaker amid claims from former staffer James Ashby of sexual harassment. Despite the dismissal by the Federal Court of the James Ashby case against Mr Slipper, he now faces charges on three counts involving alleged fraudulent conduct.
7. The Circle– Network Ten’s The Circle issued an apology after public and corporate backlash over comments made by presenter Yumi Stynes about a photo of Victoria Cross recipient Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith. Stynes’ stated “he’s going to dive down to the bottom of the pool to see if his brain is there.”
8. Craig Thomson– Mr Thomson vigorously denied allegations and reports of allegedly spending hundreds of thousands of HSU funds on prostitutes, restaurant meals, hotels, air travel for his wife and other personal items including cash advances.
9. Nick D’Arcy– A photo posted on Facebook of Kenrick Monk and Nick D’Arcy posing with automatic pistols and shot guns sparked outrage less than two months out from the 2012 London Olympic Games.
10. Red Cross– The Red Cross apologised after a blundering employee caused fury by posting a comment on Facebook that said “all gays engage in risky behaviour” and everyone with tattoos gets “infected by dirty needles.”
With the sad, sad news that 2DayFM’s ‘Crank Yanker’ style publicity stunt may have lead to the death of the reception nurse who took the hoax phone call, station owner Austereo now has a global PR disaster on its hands. Social media is reported to be ablaze with anger and revulsion at the prank, and the way the station is handling the fallout of the stunt; the company Facebook page has been swamped with critical posts and Twitter in the UK has trended heavily against the DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian. Meanwhile, a braggadocio video from Mel and Michael puffed with pride just after their hoodwinking call has now been deleted from the station website. In any publicity-seeking situation, organisations have to ask “what’s the worse thing that could happen?”. While impossible to predict the death of someone involved in a hoax call, the sensitivity and protectiveness that exists for the UK’s royal cohort might have suggested this was one fear and self-loathing promoting scenario that required some taste and restraint. RIP Jacintha Saldanha.
TV interview alert!! Not that global kiddies brand The Wiggles should be expect to be PR slicksters, but this bumbling, stumbling interview is so cringeworthy…not just because of the lack of PR preparation (who’d’a thunk Rich Wilkins could be such a probing Kerry O’Brien type??) but due to the lack of emotional intelligence or empathy shown by the band to the now-dumped Wiggle (“What about Sam…whaddya mean?”. Yet what kind of maturity should we expect from performers who spend all day singing songs and talking burble to infant audiences? Hot potato, hot potato indeed.
It’s been a bumper year for PR disasters, gaffes and mis-steps; we’ve reviewed the site and noted some of the years most memorable PR disasters (see below). But, we’d love to hear your views on what makes the biggest PR boo-boo of the year:
Tony Abbott’s ‘struck dumb’ shaking head interview
Ricky Nixon and the St Kilda teenager
Academic Larissa Behrendt’s offensive Twitter slur
Australian Defence Force – Skype sex scandal
Qantas Wallaby golliwog Twitter promo
News Ltd grilling of the Murdochs
Qantas and Alan Joyce grounding flights
Gasp retailer jeans email furore
Kyle Sandilands attack on Alison Stephenson
Qantas luxury pyjamas Tweet
Hat tip to Ragan’s PR Daily; a couple of mud-slinging, ex-journos who have fence-jumped into PR for Burson Marsteller find themselves the uncomfortable subjects of an embarrassing media story in USA. It appears they’ve been trying to dish the dirt against Google, while working for a client with an anti-Google agenda. Offers to ghost write critiques, secure coverage in Washington Post; you know; the standard media flak subterfuge. More ex-media types giving PR a bad name but hey, BM employed them for their ability to cultivate influence!!
If you’ve ever pondered what it’d be like to watch someone publicly hang themselves, then cut free just before the final, fatal asphixiation, only to give an encore petard-hoisting the following day, then Channel 7’s ‘Sunday’ night interview with AFL leper Ricky Nixon provided a comparably grisly spectacle. Instead of the ‘3 R’s’ stock-in-trade of crisis management – Regret, Responsibility and Remedial action, Nixon opted to Refute, Recriminate and Retaliate.
During the vilified footy entrepreneur’s latest, most clumsy – and to date implosive – attempt at PR redemption, there were lessons aplenty for the modern celebrity, politician, public figure and even corporation. Clearly visible lessons included:
- Don’t do media interviews when you’re tired or easily provoked to irritation or anger
- Don’t give interviews when you can’t master your ego and emotions or mask your simmering aggression, disdain or sense of hurt and injustice Continue reading