The world of public relations includes everything from content strategy to media relations to social media management. Arguably, the most intimidating tactic in the PR toolset is crisis management. To get you spooked for Halloween, we wanted to touch on five PR nightmares that still send chills down our spines.
Volkswagen’s Emissions Omissions
Volkswagen (VW) is still trying to recover from their 2015 scandal when it was discovered the company used cheat software on their cars to falsify emissions tests. While the company came out with a public apology right after the scandal was made known, it was still not enough to keep the VW brand intact. Volkswagen had created a brand centered around clean diesel and antipollution initiatives. Lying on their emissions test was not only illegal and unethical, but it undermined their entire brand and the reason why a lot of consumers purchased VW vehicles.
PR Takeaway: Your brand’s public image is everything. People work with companies and buy products because of the brand – undermining that brand goes against a company’s entire business strategy.
Fake Accounts at Wells Fargo
Starting in 2009, Wells Fargo employees created over 3.5 million phony deposit accounts and credit card applications under customer names. If that wasn’t bad enough, CEO John Stumpf came out with a public statement saying the company culture did nothing to encourage such activity, which directly went against employee accusations that the company placed unrealistic goals and pressure on employees. If Wells Fargo wasn’t already in a bad spot with consumers, Stumpf not taking any responsibility made the situation worse.
PR Takeaway: The owner or leader of a company should always be involved in consequences. The leadership of a company acts as the guiding force for the company’s actions and needs to be involved in both the good and the bad.
Delta Airline’s Embarrassing Tweet
To celebrate Team USA beating Ghana 2-1 in the 2014 World Cup, Delta Airlines posted a tweet with the image of a giraffe next to Ghana’s score. While there are giraffes in Africa, there are no giraffes in Ghana. Many people online caught on to Delta’s mistake, pointing out the irony of a global company not knowing more about one of the countries they fly to.
PR Takeaway: Think before you tweet! Anything you post online can be subject to public scrutiny. Make sure your posts are thoughtful, truthful, and backed with information or research.
Pepsi’s “Tasteless” Advertisement
Probably the most recent blunder is Pepsi’s advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner. The advertisement was accused of being an insensitive and tasteless portrayal of current social movements in the United States. Pepsi did end up pulling the advertisement and issuing a public apology, but only after the advertisement had gone viral online.
PR Takeaway: All PR or marketing efforts should go through several rounds of approval. The Pepsi advertisement was created in-house by Pepsi’s marketing team. It’s always safer to have a new plan or product go through many different reviews by people both in and out of the company.
Rhode Island Forgets Who They Are Online
In a social media promotional video for the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, viewers voiced confusion when images of a place other than Rhode Island showed up in the video – footage of Iceland. The Commerce Corporation quickly realized that somehow, non-Rhode Island footage had been mixed into the video on accident. The Commerce Corporation apologized and labeled the event as a mistake, but only after people got a good laugh out of it.
PR Takeaway: Review, review, review! While you may look over something dozens of times, it is always best to have multiple people review. Double, triple, or quadruple-checking is always okay!
We hope these PR nightmares not only gave you the chills for this Halloween, but gave you lessons to learn from as well. These are only five examples of the countless PR blunders that have happened throughout history. Comment below with some of your scariest PR nightmares and what you learned from them.