This week we take a moment to reflect on the past year’s major PR blunders. Thanks to the folks at Crain’s Chicago Business, we have five doozies to relive with you. They run the gamut from Hallmark’s lesbian bridal spot to Sallie Mae’s Hawaiian junket to the various missteps of Boeing’s now ex-CEO. All have a few things in common:
- The companies were culturally tone-deaf, whether to gender, racial, or other sensitive topics. Being woke isn’t just a fixed state of mind but a commitment to keep up with the cultural norms and mores and memes in this diverse world.
- They failed to talk. The first hours after a crisis are critical and require a response — even if it is “We are working on a response and will get back to you.” Crickets will just inflame passions and create the impression that the business fails to understand its mistakes. “An organization is more likely to survive a crisis with its reputation intact if it immediately speaks for itself rather than allowing others to speculate about its motives and behavior,” Crain’s wrote.
- They reinforced stereotypes. The Peloton ad would have worked if it had showed the woman gifting her husband, not the other way around. Why not run these ideas by impartial third parties who can identify the land mines? Hire a couple of journalists to poke holes at your message.
- The companies waffled in response. Hallmark first pulled then reinstated its bridal TV spot. The ad was bold and progressive. Why not stand your ground instead of yielding to criticism that you know is coming?
- Don’t be Facebook. We have beaten up repeatedly on the social network over the past year (#117 on alternatives and #102 on how to fix some of their most egregious flaws). Crain’s gives Facebook a dishonorable mention for stating that it won’t vet political campaigns ads.