Top PR Fails 2013

2888102664_8a07d8d0bc_oAs I’ve stated in other posts, the key to understanding how to successfully communicate during a crisis, is to look at what others have done and learn from their mistakes.

There are countless examples of failed public relations in the world every year. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to give a list of what, in my opinion, were the top three worst PR fails of this past year.

In no particular order:

Lance Armstrong – One of the most inspiring and reputable athletes in recent history, found his image in shambles after evidence surfaced that he used steroids. This situation was doomed from the get-go, as he publicly denied doping for nearly a decade before this information came out. He found himself in an amazing little crisis. In the aftermath, he went on an highly publicized interview with Oprah, in which he seemed insincere and lacking remorse. I wonder if this was due to lack of planning, or he just wasn’t able to reflect the emotions we expected from him. Regardless, he let all of his supporters down. Luckily, the LiveStrong foundation was able to separate themselves from him and this catastrophe.

Carnival Cruise Triumph- After a fire broke out in the engine room of Carnival’s Triumph ship while afloat in the Gulf of Mexico, passengers were stranded onboard for five days in horrible conditions. Human waste, limited water, extreme heat and horrible odors burdened the ship. While passengers were stuck on board, they were constantly tweeting about how horrible the experience was and this social media use took hold in media. Carnival’s restitution to passengers, $5,000 and a ticket for a free cruise. Since I’m sure so many of those people want to take another cruise… But now several of the passengers are suing Carnival claiming they have PTSD.

Justine Sacco – The tweet heard around the world. Justine Sacco is a communications director for the internet company InterActive Corp. When traveling to Africa, she tweeted an incredibly offensive remark, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” This coming from a professional communicator? Hard to believe she would make such an arrogant mistake. And she paid for it. Despite publicly apologizing she was fired from her position at the company.

Honorable mentions include Target’s credit card information breach, JP Morgan’s twitter conversation fail and the Chick-fil A CEO’s homophobic comments.


2 thoughts on “Top PR Fails 2013

  1. I was very intrigued by this post. I think both the Carnival cruise disaster and Justine Sacco cases were by far the biggest PR fails of the year. The Carnival cruise was such a fail large in part because of social media. While there may have been no plumbing, electricity, and other necessary utilities aboard the ship, passengers still had smart phones with social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, and they weren’t afraid to take to them with angry posts. I think social media really put the nail in Carnival’s coffin because the crisis spread through social media faster than the company’s PR could handle it. As for Justine Sacco, how stupid could she possibly be? It’s almost as if she wanted to be fired. Not to mention she’s been in hot water before for things she has said over social media. Some people never learn I guess.

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