Denver PR Blog


2016 PR Disasters – The Finalists
January 2, 2017, 1:18 pm
Filed under: Public Relations

I joined KOA NewsRadio’s April Zesbaugh recently for my annual list of 2016’s biggest PR disasters, and I wanted to share the complete list of the year’s finalists:

Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, perpetually overshadowed by Michael Phelps, finally finds the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

An allegedly inattentive Tesla driver gives the company its first fatal auto-pilot accident.

A viral video shows an employee of Kellogg’s urinating on a Rice Krispies production line.

The lack of diversity among nominees spurs the #OscarsSoWhite protest. In response, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selects comedian Chris Rock to host the awards ceremony, who almost immediately draws criticism for mocking Asians.

India’s Tata Motors introduces its exciting new car – the Zica!

Snapchat introduces a Bob Marley “black face” filter to celebrate 4/20. Realizing the publicity bonanza that bad taste can give it, Snapchat then introduces the yellow face filter that offends many Asians.

Today Show host Billy Bush goes from boy wonder to persona non grata at NBC.

There is not a lot that can create bipartisanship in Washington these days, but allegations of price gouging by the maker of the Epi-Pen did just that.

Cinemark tries to make victims of the Aurora Theater shooting pays its legal bills.

Three years ago, Penn State set the gold standard for college athletics PR debacles. An unimpressed Baylor said, “Oh yeah. Watch this.”

Looking to reclaim its position back from Baylor, Penn State chooses to honor disgraced former coach Joe Paterno on the 50th anniversary of his first game.

Scientists discover that Dyson’s hip new hand dryers actually spread germs 190 times more than old-fashioned paper towels.

US Soccer goalie Hope Solo plays the Ugly American to perfection by calling the Swedish team “cowards” after they defeated the US team.

Chipotle tries to change the subject from E.coli after a disastrous 2015, and its Chief Creative Officer takes one for the team by getting arrested as part of a New York City drug ring investigation.

Homelessness, open drug use on the Cherry Creek Trail, violence on the 16th Street Mall and historically high rents all take their toll on Denver’s reputation.

Banks, airlines and cell phone providers are the businesses that people love to hate, and this year Wells Fargo vaulted itself to the top of that list by allegedly creating fraudulent accounts for its customers.

What do Samsung’s mobile phones and washing machines have in common? They both explode.

Miss Teen USA somehow holds on to her title following the discovery of racist tweets. Meanwhile, Joe’s Crab Shack uses photos of lynchings to give its restaurants an authentic decor.

The US Department of Defense asks veterans to repay enlistment bonuses 10 years after they were paid.

Chili’s takes away a veteran’s free meal.

Leading up to the Iowa caucuses, Stanford alumna and presidential candidate Carly Fiorina tweets that she is rooting against her alma mater and for the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Rose Bowl.

Tennis superstar Maria Sharapova is dropped by sponsors after testing positive for a banned substance.

Advertising giant JWT Global’s CEO is accused of sexual harassment. Not to be outdone, the chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi is put on leave for his insensitive gender diversity comments.

Facebook allows advertisers to exclude audiences based on race.

An Indian Wells tennis executive is forced to resign after belittling female players and the Women’s Tennis Association.

George Mason University is horrified when its newly named Antonin Scalia School of Law is being referred to as “ASS Law.”

A Sprint TV commercial shows focus group participants associating T-Mobile service with ghettos.

Analyst Curt Shilling is fired by ESPN for a social media post related to transgender bathrooms.

Both ABC and Michael Strahan incur the wrath of Kelly Ripa when she is blindsided by his departure from the Live with Kelly and Michael show to join Good Morning America.

The University of California at Davis goes to incredible lengths to try to cover up its Pepper Spray-Gate.

The National Football League is accused of trying to influence the results of scientific research through its grants.

A two-year-old is snatched and killed by an alligator at a Disney resort.

England voters looking to make a statement inadvertently vote to leave the European Union.

Jostens gives Denver Broncos defensive coordinator “Wade Peters” his Super Bowl ring.

Uber is sanctioned after it uses a CIA-linked intelligence firm to investigate lawyers and plaintiffs in a suit against the ride-sharing company.

The wife of a Tampa Bay Buccaneers football player tweets about the front office taking care of its “Jew buddies.”

Fox News cans Roger Ailes following allegations of sexual harassment by a number of female employees, including anchors Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly.

The National Football League is forced to cancel its season-opening Hall of Fame game after the painted surfaces of the field become rock-hard.

NBC Olympics announcers Chris Marlowe, Al Trautwig and Dan Hicks take turns offending groups of viewers.

JetBlue sends an unattended 5-year-old to the wrong airport.

Big Sugar commissions Harvard studies to point the finger at fat and away from sugar as the cause of obesity and other health problems.

Skittles unwillingly finds itself at the heart of an immigration debate when Donald Trump’s son uses a bowlful of its candy as a metaphor.


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