Posted on: 30 September 2019

Examples of PR that went wrong

In a world where information can be shared at the press of a button, information must be checked before it goes into the public domain, where it can stay forever.

Public relations (PR) can be tricky for businesses, so making sure you get it right the first time around or knowing when to hire a PR professional is essential. We have taken a look at some of the worst PR nightmares that companies have faced when trying to share information with their customers.

As a small business, you may not think that PR is important, but by being open with your customers as a public-facing business you can enjoy benefits such as unpaid advertising, networking and relationships that can be developed.

Examples of PR disasters and how you could avoid the same mistakes

Delta Airlines

In May 2019, it was revealed that US airline, Delta, had displayed posters encouraging their employees to stop paying union fees and instead, use the $700 to pay for a new video game console or have a night out with friends.

The posters gathered widespread criticism online, who saw this as an attempt to encourage Delta employees to give up their workers’ rights to instead pay for something so trivial.

The moral of the story here is to take your employee wellbeing seriously and don’t spread a message that could be seen as taking advantage of your employees.

Ryanair

Over to an airline closer to home with Ryanair, who’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, has a history of making unpopular comments and claims. However, a piece of bad PR came in October 2018 when Ryanair responded to a video that had emerged of a passenger being racially abused.

Their Twitter post in regards to the incident simply read “Statement: We are aware of this video and have reported this matter to Essex Police”. Many found this to be an inadequate response and took to Twitter to voice their disapproval at Ryanair’s handling of the situation.

If you find yourself in the situation that you need to make a public apology, make sure that your apology is as sincere as you feel about the situation. Don’t make excuses, understand why you are making an apology and learn from your mistakes.

Pepsi

In 2017, Pepsi released a short film advert called “Live for Now” which featured Kendall Jenner in a politically charged advert set to the music of Skip Marley; what could go wrong? Well as it turned out, quite a lot.

During the advert, Kendall Jenner is taking part in a photoshoot and notices a protest going on in the street next to her photoshoot, she is then invited to join in, so she whips off her wig, throws it at the make-up artist, rubs off her lipstick and joins the protest. She makes her way through the crowd to the line of police blocking the road, walks over to a policeman and hands him a can of Pepsi. The policeman then nods and smiles and then the party begins. So where did it all go wrong?

The advert was slammed online for its trivialisation of protests, especially as the advert was broadcast during the Black Lives Matter campaign. People were also quick to point out “white privilege” as Jenner whips her wig off and thrusts it at the makeup artist, a black lady, with a look of visible confusion. Another significant criticism of the advert came when the policeman was handed a can of Pepsi and it was all over, again trivialising the seriousness of the movement that was going on.

Make sure that any communications that you put out into public domain are grounded in reality and find a good balance between showing off your product and demonstrating your values. You should also try to keep clear of political messages in your advertising, and only comment on things that are suitable for your industry.

PR tips for small businesses

Approach bloggers

By having someone impartially talking about your products, you can create some positive PR for your company.

Take a look around social media or online blogs for people in your area who write features and ask them to spend some time with a free sample of one of your products. If they have had positive experiences with your products, ask them to write about them to get some great coverage.

Social media

If you don’t have company social media accounts already, you need to get them as soon as possible! Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are great places to start and give you a free tool to connect with your local community and your customers.

Social media can give you a chance to show off your products online and have a direct line of communication to your customers who can directly message you or find out about your business from the information that you provide on your account.

Collect online reviews

Take a look at a previous article on how important it is to collect reviews online, whether this is on free services, such as Google or Facebook, or paid review sites such as Feefo or TripAdvisor.

Similar to having a blogger review your products, having positive reviews about your company will also reflect positively to other customers. Signpost your customers to where you would like your reviews collected and encourage them to visit.

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