BOMBERS DOPING SCANDAL IS PR DISASTER OF THE DECADE!

Essendon Bombers 'win at all costs', won it Australia's PR disaster of the decade.

Essendon Bombers ‘win at all costs’, won it Australia’s PR disaster of the decade.

As the PR industry’s unofficial watchdog – we can reveal Australia’s biggest PR disasters of 2015 – and of the decade too! In our 10th anniversary since the ‘PR Disasters’ book and blog were launched in 2005, we have used independent data analysis from a global media monitoring company to define Australia’s biggest PR blunders of the last ten years.

The Bombers doping scandal gained nearly double the negative media mentions (89,685)  than the runner up – a massive victory for any football team!

The Australian PR Disaster Awards highlight the worst examples of business, celebrity, government, media and sports PR “miss-steps”. They assess PR problems in both traditional and online spaces, including social media. To qualify as a PR disaster, the incident must result in sustained, negative media coverage for the brand, business or person at the centre of the story. The winners are based upon the number of media mentions the issue gets (online and offline) and the amount of negative sentiment in that coverage. Australia’s Top 5 PR Disasters of the decade (biggest first) were:

  1. Essendon Bombers – supplements scandal (89,685 pieces of media coverage)
  2. Gillard/Labor Party Carbon Tax – Julia’s short-lived legislation (46,439)
  3. Abbott’s wink and ‘shirtfront’ – the ex-PMs blokey machismo (29,983)
  4. Qantas’ – its grounding of fleet and ‘luxury’ #socialmediafail (18,868)
  5. Volkswagen emissions – the emissions cheating scandal (12,341)

2015’s top five PR blunders were:

1               Volkswagen – the auto marque’s fake emissions scandal (12,341)                2               Joe Hockey – the former Libs treasurer’s “get a good job” jibe (7,262)       3               Belle Gibson – fraudulent claims of a cancer-curing blogger (6,792)           4               Bronwyn Bishop – ‘Chopper-gate’ trip took gaffes to a new high (4,390)  5               Australian Border Force – show of force turned to a PR farce (3,292)

Commenting on changes in the PR disaster phenomenon, PR Disasters analyst and author Gerry McCusker, commented: “Social media has the ability to turn a misstep into a marathon media nightmare. Cheating and insensitivity – which both rupture trust – are the biggest catalyst of PR and reputation blunders.”

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PR disasters and powder-puff apologies

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It gets up my nose when PRs access the ‘lazy file’ when their clients do dumb stuff.

I mean, why do acclaimed professional communicators deliver hollow, default statements when required to craft and coach authentic and credible expressions of responsibility and regret in the event of celebrity PR disasters? What’s the purpose of these generic communications? Why do we get apology by cut ‘n’ paste?

We continually get a predictable grab-bag of cliches, half-truths and wholly unconvincing claims of accountability and remorse. Read this generic statement and you can pretty much substitute the name of the un-saintly football player with the name of any basketballer, cyclist, rugby or soccer player caught with his pants down, brain addled, veins full or fists balled.

In PR disasters, perhaps many PRs don’t craft connective, meaningful, believable and winning crisis management statements because they don’t have the emotional intelligence in themselves to be able to help the client process and express? It’s also true, though, that spin doctors are often hamstrung by the instructions given by lawyers advising the company, club or code.

Next time a sports star or celebrity makes “a mistake” (a patronising misnomer), PRs should try asking: A) what really went on for YOU that time? B) why did YOU the player make that choice ? C) what was ingesting the substance all about for YOU? D) didn’t YOU fear getting caught? and E) what feelings did YOU have at the time, and what do YOU feel right now ?

Then a PR might prefer to compose something like this:

“First off, this was not a mistake; this was about my decisions, actions and stupidity.  It was also about me thinking I was too cool and too big to ever be caught.          Honestly? I was partying hard and intoxicated. I thought my edgy “cool” lifestyle would make me look like a rockstar to my mates.

I don’t know why I feel the need to impress them when I should be impressing the code, the club and the fans who have genuinely trusted and respected me. I will think about that and get to the bottom of it most likely with a specialist counsellor.

Recording the incident was simply stupid. I’ve done courses and had advice to be careful with online media but I made a daft choice which lead to this trouble. Again, my mistake was in thinking I was too special, too cool to be caught. Right now, I am full of self-recrimination and shame for the hurt I’ve caused to everyone who cares about me. I will work on this and hopefully emerge a better, more mature and trustworthy person as a result.”

No-one expects footy players to be angels or Saints (geddit?). But with the myriad of PR disasters – and subsequent player education courses about using social media and drugs – you’d half-expect these young men to use at least half of the wits they have! (Note; not many female athletes do such dumb sh*t!).

Generic PR apology statements appear to say all the right things but they only tell us one thing for sure: THAT THE ATHLETE DID NOT ACTUALLY SAY THESE WORDS!

And that shows they’re reluctant to be truly responsible and remorseful as they look to recover from being rumbled.
Hat-tip ColorCube for image loan.

 

 

Clumsy media release causes PR disaster for Border Force

“ABF officers will be positioned at various locations around the CBD speaking with any individual we cross paths with…”

This is the ABF media statement (below) which saw civil (kinda) rights protesters gridlock parts of Melbourne’s CBD today. As a stakeholder engagement piece it was stupendously successful – not only were parts of the statement provocative and “Orwellian” (h/t protester sound bite) but it also directed anti-AFB activists where to congregate to spoil the (media) party. It’s also the first time I’ve queried the wisdom/value of equipping media releases with ‘social share’ buttons (foot of page). This facility possibly enabled protesters to quickly share and amass their forces to disrupt the inter-agency “initiative”. As many PRs on the planet will be musing…there but for the grace of God go I…

Bordfer Force PR disaster

Treasurer Hockey pays for his cheap advice

MP Andrew Leigh MP launches an online political attack saying that a “median-priced house now costs over $666,000 – that’s more than six times average incomes. Where are all these ‘good jobs’ the Treasurer says will help you pay for that?”

Treasurer Joe quickly became the subject of a social media backlash

Treasurer Joe quickly became the subject of a social media backlash

McIntyre’s PR disaster tweets played the man, more than the ball

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As an avid football fan, I’ve sampled ex-SBS reporter Scott McIntyre’s contributions and musings on the world game; he struck me as a decent researcher and succinct communicator.
In respect to his recent controversial, non-football microbloggings, his PR, career and reputational issues bled out of two of them in particular.
In both cases McIntyre did what he would surely recognise as a football no-no; he played the man not the ball: Continue reading

Belle Gibson; extinguished (distinguished) psychopath ?

Online, anyone can pretend to be anything they like. Social lives get ‘larged’ on social networks, suitors misrepresent on dating websites, resumes get burnished on Linkedin. Some even claim to have self-cured from cancer, blogged on the topic and profited hugely from a book and wellness App based on a BFL (big fat lie). So, is it just PR spin, web entrepreneurialism, shysterism or even a case of a psychological malaise – as is subtly questioned in this useful News Ltd piece...

As ever was, PR reparations start with “Sorry”, and proceed to responsible, remedial action.