5 PR Blunders to Avoid

Averting Bad Publicity

Averting Bad Publicity

It's hardly a secret that whether it's good or bad, publicity is still publicity. However, you do not have to ask which type companies want for their brand. While bad publicity can catapult a name to the headlines or the media spotlight faster, nobody recovers quickly and smoothly from a bad fall, whether literally or figuratively.

Rick Perry  Image Credit:  eaglerising.com

Rick Perry

Image Credit: eaglerising.com

Do not take facts for granted.

Rick Perry could have avoided a major PR disaster if he just literally took down notes before his debate for the presidential elections. He was asked which agencies he would eradicate. Instead of answering the question unscathed he went on with his list and when he’s supposed to recite the third one, all he said was “Ooops” because he forgot the name of that agency. One small detail that you miss could spark a storm. Practice before going out on a speaking engagement or undergo media training. Insert media training project we did for Max’s.

Occupy Wall Street  Image Credit:  wikimedia.com

Occupy Wall Street

Image Credit: wikimedia.com

Make sure to communicate clearly.

In 2011, Occupy Wall Street protested against social and economic inequality in New York . It prided itself on having no leader, just grassroots members. However, the movement equated having no leader ashaving no official spokesperson. The lack made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to communicate with the general public clearly. Disagreements were aired before final decisions, which lowered morale, and the lack of centralized communication ensured that the movement won't sway the minds of those on the fence.

Official spokespersons are needed to embody a company's message and control information. They provide a reliable face whose pronouncements can be counted on.

Lululemon Athletica  Image Credit:  brendanziegler.com

Lululemon Athletica

Image Credit: brendanziegler.com

Never blame your customers.

Lululemon Athletica, a Canadian athletic brand, released their new collection of yoga pants in 2013. However, the customers found themselves in a problematic situation when wearing the pants in public because the material appeared too sheer especially when exposed in light. Rather than exerting PR efforts in addressing the issue, Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon, blamed the problem on overweight women who wore the pants even if it was too tight for them.

If your company is required by the public to fix something, make the motion to fix the problem. Don't blame them for not using your product correctly or that they don’t fit your product at all. While the customers aren’t always right, blaming them opens your company to public ridicule and you can only lose in the end.

Malaysian Airways  Image Credit:  dailyslave.com

Malaysian Airways

Image Credit: dailyslave.com

Do not be insensitive.

When Malaysian Airways had one airplane disappear and another shot down, the airline scrambled their PR to assure the public that they are resolving the issues and providing answers, especially the passengers’ relatives. Unfortunately, they came up with a rather insensitive campaign —they unleashed the "bucket list of places to go before you die" campaign.

Having two airplanes take off and not reach their destination is already a lot to handle but they added oil to the fire by reminding people of the loss. Showing concern and compassion the families should be at the forefront of their priorities. 

Philip Morris Tobacco  Image Credit:  issworld.com

Philip Morris Tobacco

Image Credit: issworld.com

It’s not what you mean. It’s how you say it.

Phillip Morris Tobacco, in their efforts to glamorize smoking, conducted a campaign in the Czech Republic where it declared that the benefits of smoking can be found in the country's national economy. The company declared that early deaths leads to healthcare and pension savings. The Czech Republic gained $146 million thanks to smoking's “indirect positive effects.” The negative public feedback pushed Steven Parrish, the Senior VP of Phillip Morris to issue a public apology.

Making a vice attractive and beneficial is already in poor taste. Stating deaths as another benefit is just foul.


Although we can't predict if a PR effort is successful until it is shown in public, it pays to keep an eye on serious mistakes that have already broken other brands and to be sensitive to the audience's possible responses.