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.”

The goose that hiccups

Picture the scene; a burly, inebriated, heavily tattooed late 20’s male (with some behavioural “previous”)  towers over a woman in an upscale Japanese restaurant threatening to stab her with chopsticks and kill her. He seemingly slaps his hand into the wall next to her head while berating and intimidating her.

As a PR you’re asked what to do to handle it…

a) Say it’s “a hiccup…”

b) Describe it as a the actions of “a goose…” (at a ‘Women in Leadership’ summit)

c) Confect a series of lame excuses that have to be redrafted after public condemnation by a real footy legend, who demands that the young male is properly brought to book?

And this from a  club with the AFL’s first female president Peggy O’Neal. Which crisis management manual are the Tigers working from??

PR Disaster Awards – nominations and data flowing in

Have we missed anything you thought was a public relations gaffe in Australia this year?

Here are some of the PR blunders jostling for 2015’s PR disaster accolade. The initial data is in but we’re still crunching numbers and processing sentiment before we decide the year’s biggest blunder. Whatcha think?

7-Eleven staff low wages fiasco

Australia Border Force; ‘clumsy’ press release

Belle Gibson – blogger who cured her own cancer

Bernard Tomic Miami arrest

Bill Shorten union Commission

Bronwyn Bishop choppergate scandal

Joe Hockey – get a good job that pays good money

Nick Kyrgios

Volkswagen emissions scandal

Woolworths ‘Lest We Forget’

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.



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

Twitter Twit
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

Australia's 2014 PR Disasters – Finalists

As we assess the data for 2014’s Australian PR Disasters Awards, two heavyweight teams are emerging as the main column centimetre negativity contenders; a) Tony Abbott’s coalition government and b) the NRL’s most wayward rugby stars. While political players such as George Brandis and Scott Morrison did their best to stain and murder their personal and party reputations by seeking to punish whistleblowers and asylum seekers respectively, several rugger buggers created a trickle of bad press over their oral (Todd Carney) and public (Greg Bird) urination episodes that, in turn, created a stream/torrent of social and MSM media criticism. Some surprise contenders such as Zoos SA’s attempt to marginalise a local ice cream supplier in favour of a palm-oil favouring globalcorp raised hackles in Adelaide, while coffee and coffee magnate Phillip De Bella’s expletive-infused Facebook rants had Brizzie caffeine lovers in a froth. And while Rupert Murdoch made a late charge with his emotionally-vapid, corporation-aggrandising Tweet over the #sydneysiege, it’s increasingly looking like PM Abbott will snatch the Award with his globe-spanning “shirtfront” proclamation – we will announce the winners very soon.