Whenever public relations goes well, it can lead to many great things, including anything from helping to change the way we think to promoting the latest and greatest product. Whatever it is PR can be a powerful tool.
When all goes well, you may be completely unaware that that company you love so much, even has a relations department. But when it goes wrong it can be embarrassing awkward and in some cases, devastating to a company. But let us not forget that it can also be downright funny. So in that spirit, we take a look at three examples of how not to do PR.
Social Media Get Stormy
When hurricane Sandy ravaged the US in 2012, you would expect many community minded companies to step up to the plate with useful supplies like water or home goods or maybe even a place to stay. Unfortunately for a large clothing chain, what others saw as a tragedy, The Gap saw as a profitable opportunity.
The company tweeted that customers trapped by the storm should take to shopping for Gap goods online. That’s right…. Your house may have sunk, with millions of pounds worth of damage to boot, but at least you can buy a cool cap, to where as you rebuild your shattered community.
As you would expect, disgruntled users quickly pounced on this ill judged comment and the brand soon received widespread criticism.
While the company did recover from its lapse in judgement, It teaches us to always be mindful of what you say and do online and always stay aware of current happenings.
It’s Not Cool to Be Cool
It could often be said that Public Relations is about changing people’s behaviours both in and outside of a company, hopefully making them see that your way or your brand’s way is the best way. However, insulting potential custom is probably not the best way to go about this.
But that’s exactly what Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries plumped for back in 2006. Whilst giving an interview he states:
“We go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong.”
To add insult to injury, it stores, while offering XXL to men whilst only go up to size 10 for women.
This doesn’t exactly take a PR genius to work out where this failed, as the chain clearly attempts to force his elitist style on shoppers. Female and slim you’re in for everyone else, you put your Abercrombie and Fitch clothes in the bin.
Within PR, it is vital to know who your brands’ primary audiences through such means as a stakeholder map, whilst trying to understand what they expect of you.
These blundering comments not only show a lack of sensitivity, but a lack of understanding in regards to their audience and what they consider to be cool. Regardless of size, whether or not somebody is in your primary demographic, what’s the harm in them taking the time to buy your product?
The Simple Truth
This is not so much a laugh a minute, but more sad tale of a man deceiving to win and attempting to use PR to do it.
One of the biggest and most well-known downfalls in sporting history is that of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. Despite having many laudable achievements, not least among them founding the Living Strong Foundation to aid in the fight against cancer, Armstrong’s career will forever be tainted by the doping allegations now proven against him.
Although Armstrong made several denials, an investigation by authorities soon put pay to that with substantial evidence against him.
Though he tried to repair the damage with an interview with one of America’s favourites Oprah Winfrey explaining his actions and offering a form of apology, not even Oprah could resolve this mess. The message is clear and simple in this one. The golden rule in PR: Don’t ever lie!