Public relations disasters – and the poor PR officers left to clear up the mess!
There are many joyful and satisfying moments in our line of work, like getting national press coverage for a local business, or overseeing the planning of a company’s hugely successful event. However, every now and then we’re all faced with situations sent to try us – like a looming public relations disaster.
All it takes is a misquoted phrase, a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ or a monumentally misjudged marketing campaign, and the good people of PR departments across the world are left to chief the damage control as best they can.
Here’s just a few of our favourite public relations disasters for your general amusement. We’ll join in with the giggles, while praying we never have to deal with the likes of any of them..ever!
US Cigarette Manufacturer, Philip Morris, says smoking deaths have “positive effects”
It’s difficult to work out where to begin with this one.
The quote was actually released along with results from a study carried out in the Czech Republic. This was conducted in response to claims that deaths caused by smoking were costing the country money, however the survey showed that deaths of smokers in the country resulted in a net gain of almost £100 million, including saving “between 943 million and 1.2 billion Czech Korunas in health-care, pension and public-housing costs due to the early deaths of smokers.”
Perhaps a valid point but it would appear that attempting to put a positive spin on death of any kind, specifically a publicly sensitive topic such as smoking, was never going to go down very well! Philip Morris Inc apologised for the statement and subsequently pulled plans for similar surveys in other countries.
Racist board game goes on sale in Urban Outfitters
Get rich by “buying stolen properties, pimpin’ hoes, building crack houses and getting car jacked!”
Excellent tag line! What could possibly go wrong?
In addition to this, you can choose from Pimp, Machine Gun or Marijuana Leaf as your playing piece and pick up a Chance card reading the glorious line, “You got yo’ whole neighbourhood addicted to crack. Collect $50.”
Surprisingly, this new idea did not go down well with anyone in particular. Reverend Robert P. Shine Sr, president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity called the game “a corporate endorsement of the denigration of African Americans”. In response, the company’s marketing department released the statement: “Due to customer concerns Urban Outfitters are no longer selling the game.” A good choice, we’d say.
Ogilvy India releases mattress advert showing Malala Yousafzai being shot
This is probably the most shocking PR faux-pas we came across in our search.
Oglivy & Mathers advertising company released the cartoon of Malala being shot by a Taliban soldier, falling back onto a “Kurl-On” mattress and rising up to receive a humanitarian award. All above the tag line “bounce back”. To really make sure the campaign would offend as many people as possible, they also whipped further cartoons showing Steve Jobs being chucked out by Apple and Ghandi being thrown from a train for sitting in first class. Great work guys!
Not only was this advert extremely insensitive towards a young woman who deserves endless amounts of praise and thanks for her actions, but it also makes light of an event which very nearly, and certainly intended to, take her life.
We’re calling this an absolute, non-negotiable disaster.