Public relations’ worst moves of 2006

Interesting to see  include public relations in its review of the year.  Although US-focused, some interesting lessons here.  The list of reputation disasters includes:

  • ‘s use of private investigators to obtain personal phone records and other information about board members and key reporters (including three from BusinessWeek).  Resignation of Patricia Dunn and criminal charges against company officials, plus a $14.5 million fine resulted.
  • The book and television deal with News Corporation subsidiaries, HarperCollins and Fox.  Public outrage saw Rupert Mudoch intervene, canceling the deals and firing the editor behind the project, Judith Regan just before the company Christmas party.  And now lawsuits threaten Murdoch himself
  • An E-Coli outbreak at restaurants and problems with contact lens solution made by saw classic crisis management PR responses.
  • The recall of more than 7 million lithium-ion batteries by and various laptop computer companies after Internet reports of batteries catching fire – estimated to have cost Sony $300 million.
  • The (flog) saga where Edelman-Wal-Mart were outed as funding a supposed citizen blog journey across the US

In the UK, my top 5 poor public relations examples from 2007 are:

  • salmonella contamination which is expected to have cost £30 million and adversely affected share prices (hot on the heels of the  ill-conceived CSR initiative – the company continues to destroy its Quaker responsibility heritage)
  • The collective airline industry – from the current fiasco, to the “” security alert and poor understanding of – relations with the public and other stakeholders have been appalling
  • Sports bodies, the  (how to turn a world cup success into a management disaster) and the FA – with crisis after crisis (from “will it ever be finished” to investigation into corruption in football)
  • Carphone Warehouse – as I blogged recently – where a marketing initiative has highlighted total disregard for most stakeholders
  • The Red Cross, Disasters Emergency Committee and any other humanitarian organisation able to sleep comfortably at night whilst millions of Tsunami victims remain homeless
    It would be unfair to include any politicians (who by definition are really walking PR disasters) and celebrities (too easy a target, especially Brittany and the Mills-McCartney divorce disaster). 

It doesn’t take a lot to predict that public relations will continue to need to prove itself with ongoing crisis management in 2007. 

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.