As 2018 comes to a close, I take time to reflect on some of the higher-profile PR disasters, debacles and mistakes:
Roseanne Barr – There has always been a fine line between creative genius and mental illness, and it can be argued that Roseanne wobbled along that line when she melted down on Twitter in May. Riding high from the return of her groundbreaking television show, “Roseanne,” the mercurial star made outrageously racist comments about a former advisor to President Barack Obama. ABC immediately canceled her show, then revived it as a separate show, “The Conners,” that does not include her.
One company did emerge from the Roseanne debacle looking good, however: Sanofi, the makers of the sleep drug Ambien. When Roseanne said her tweets were a byproduct of using the drug, Sanofi responded by saying, in part, that “racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”
Apple– The computer giant started 2018 with the corporate equivalent of a big New Year’s Day hangover when it was disclosed that the company was throttling iPhone performance to maximize battery life. While that trade-off is one that many might willingly choose, the fact that they didn’t let consumers make their own decisions was at the heart of the problem. Apple apologized and quickly offered an inexpensive battery replacement program for older phones, but the company still got a tidal wave of “planned obsolescence” stories that questioned its integrity.