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

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.

 

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.

Audio interview on preventing social media disasters

Do you really understand the consequences and power of Online Reputation Management? Do you get how social media silos and scuttlebutt are the fuel that can feed global online news attention and damaging search engine finds? Ahead of a four-session seminar series for IABC International, PR analyst and author of the book ‘Public Relations Disasters’ Gerry McCusker shares his thoughts in a year of celebrity social media stuff-ups and suggests a new engagement ethos for ORM.

Crying over spilt (Halal) milk

The power – and pain – of agenda-driven social media lobbying has curdled (pun 1) the relationship between the Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company and some of its online detractors, specifically Restore Australia. Anti-IslamisationBoycott Halal baseball cap activists have targeted and bombarded the South Australian Fleurieu dairy company in many prominent social media channels; channels that offer unexpurgated commentary and unedited critiques often prove fertile breeding grounds for a culture (pun 2) of brand-bashing and, oftentimes, personally-biased and uninformed venting.

In posting this, my aim is not to defend nor attack either interest in this incident but simply to illustrate a modern PR disaster dynamic; that what starts small online, can snowball into a capital city news report and eventually move onto our national TV news screens. Social media is all about reputation, as well as stakeholder engagement and influence. Hat-tip (pun 3) to Zazzle for the image.

Bill Cosby's #socialmediafail as meme invites rape flak

Sometimes, reputational ineptitude scales the heights of unawareness and at other times it plumbs the depths of idiocy. When Bill Cosby’s online PR team invited audiences to meme pictures of cuddly old Bill, had they never heard of this year’s recent #myNYPD social media snafu?
Yet another reason why social media reputation isn’t a game for kids, or for old blokes with allegedly chequered pasts.
Bill Cosby meme fail

Gallen's C-tweet baits NRL's C-suite

First up, I have empathy for those with depression or self-medication issues. But in terms of PR, media reports and reputation management, there’s often not much room for such understanding. That’s why Paul Gallen’s tweet – offensively deriding his defacto NRL employers/governors as female genitalia – is defined as a PR gaffe, any pre-existing issues or circumstances aside.

For a privileged sports role model (with some bad PR ‘form’ re performance supplement use in particular) to fail to accept accountability for the consequences of his wrongs (harder – yet more telling – than just issuing an easy, media mea culpa) puts the gall in ‘Gallen’. Paul may now claim his use of the C-word (below) is innocuous. (Ladies, mums, sisters, daughters; your views on that one?)

This PR disaster is only compounded when the NRL stipulates that this great athlete – yet PR putz – needs to complete a leadership course as part of his rehabilitation.                         A followership, humility and emotional awareness course might better address some of the issues fuelling Paul’s PR disaster, and fuelling the original drivers that led to it.

Still with empathy and chapeau to SydMornHerald for quip-grabs, G.