2013 PR Disasters – The Finalists

I will be joining April Zesbaugh on 850 KOA tomorrow morning to share my official list of the year’s biggest PR disasters, but in the meantime here is the list of finalists:

Cinemark re-opens the Aurora Shooting theater despite protests from families of the victims.

CBS apologizes after football commentator Brent Musburger, who is approximately 120 years old, ogles a college coed on national TV.

“So, are you a duplicitous liar or just the world’s biggest chump?” is a tough question to answer. Just ask Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o.

Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong finally admits using PEDs and lying to the world for years.

Subway claims that “footlong” was never intended to imply a specific length when it is sued for subs that don’t quite measure up to their name.

The Boy Scouts of America manage to piss off everyone by punting on a decision to allow gay scouts instead of just ripping off the band-aid one way or another.

When courtroom battles don’t go their way, CBS executives get even with Dish Network’s ad-skipping DVR technology the old-fashioned way: passive aggressively.

Amazon is forced to apologize and pull T-shirts with the slogan, “Keep Calm and Rape a Lot.”

Gallows humor in the public relations world holds that there is no bad situation that you can’t make worse, and Rutgers University proved this point this spring.

Media coin the term “Poop Cruise” to describe the latest tragecomedy that is a Carnival cruise.

Harvard is caught snooping on faculty members’ email accounts.

CNN offers sympathy for convicted rapists whose “promising futures” were stunted by the convictions.

Google chooses to honor Cesar Chavez instead of the Easter holiday. FoxNews goes bitchcakes.

The Pac-12 Conference’s head of officiating puts a bounty on one of its coaches, then tries hard not to resign.

Butter-laden recipes and down-home charm weren’t the only Old South affectations celebrity chef Paula Deen used.

Who knew a reality show about a bunch of rural West Virginia hillbillies could go so wrong? Clearly not MTV.

Dear Reebok: Vicarious street cred can turn on you. Quickly.

CNN‘s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings set a new low for cable news coverage, which is saying something.

If Elvis Dumervil could punch Fax machine buttons as fast as he chases quarterbacks, he’d still be a Denver Bronco.

The Associated Press learns that “password” is a bad password after someone hacks its Twitter account and falsely claims the White House has been bombed.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong shows the world how tough Donald Trump-wannabes fire someone: live on a conference call with hundreds of other employees.

Fox31 finds out what it feels like when 9News turns its investigative team on you.

If you didn’t already love sorority girls, you will after reading this epic rant from a University of Maryland Delta Gamma.

The Obama Administration: Take your pick of Benghazi, government shutdown, IRS , AP Wiretaps, Obamacare, NSA spying, etc.

JC Penney finds that Hitler is marketing gold when it comes to unloading crappy teapots.

Ohio State President Gordon Gee proves he’s the most interesting college president ever, right up until they made him resign.

Dear Men’s Wearhouse: This is why you don’t let your company chairman star in every commercial you’ve run for decades.

San Francisco’s KTVU and the National Transportation Safety Board fight to see who can look worse after this racist and ridiculous report.

The Denver Broncos front office shows its not just entitled athletes who can make an organization look bad.

Johnny Football became Johnny Autograph.

Rolling Stone reminds everyone it is still publishing by putting the Boston Marathon bomber on its cover.

If Geraldo Rivera can’t convince you that a selfie is a bad idea, nothing will.

Miley Cyrus shows us what a prepubescent girl would look like grinding on a 1940s gangster. You can’t unsee that.

Dear Von Miller: It shouldn’t be this hard to outsmart a guy who collects urine for a living.

The worst PR crises are often self-inflicted, as Barilla Pasta and last-minute-entrant “Duck Dynasty” showed us. Both were unforced errors.

Peter Boyles. Again.

When did the University of Denver start to think it is to college hockey what the University of Alabama is to football?

AIG’s CEO compares criticism of Wall Street bonuses to Jim Crow-era lynchings.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk really is the basis for Tony Stark, judging by his wild, frenzied responses to media questions about the electric car company’s safety.

ESPN reminds us the the “E” stands for “Entertainment” when it pulls out of a documentary examining the devastating effects of concussions after its partner, the NFL, asks it to.

You will never win a PR battle against a blind guy with a cute dog, US Airways.

Timing is everything, a point that was momentarily lost on Connect for Health Colorado’s Patty Fontneau.

GoldieBlox creates a brilliant parody of a Beastie Boys song, then ruins it all by taking it one step too far.

This is not the kind of media coverage retailers like Target want heading into the last shopping weekend before Christmas.

7 thoughts on “2013 PR Disasters – The Finalists

  1. Nice list! It may be too soon to tell, but the Target data breach is shaping up to be a major blunder for that company. Besides not following very basic security mandates, they aren’t saying anything, which leads to future speculation about how bad the data breach actually is. Rule #1 of crisis communications is to acknowledge that there is a problem. “No comment” never works.

    1. Paula lost her Food Network show and sponsorships with Target, Home Depot, Walmart and Sears — all this year. No question that it was a 2013 PR disaster.

  2. Although I didn’t hear the radio show, this is nicely done Jeremy!!

    Merry and Happy.


    Richard Abels
    Abels Communication Company – Celebrating 10 Years!
    Strategic Marketing & Corporate Communications
    Office: (303) 779-6292 ● Cell: (303) 888-3353

    Brand Positioning ● Messaging + Press ● Issues/Crisis Management ● Counsel
    http://www.AbelsComm.com LinkedIn Twitter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s