#WorstPRMoves of 2013
The #BostonStrong hashtag and slogan were included in our list of the best PR moves of 2013, but we’ve all seen that for every good idea there is a really bad one. When the Toronto Maple Leafs fans flashed a sign that read “Toronto Stronger,” their attempt to poke fun at their hockey rivals turned into an online firestorm worthy of putting them on this list.
Kenneth Cole Is Bad at Twitter
Similarly, Kenneth Cole, now famous for having zero common sense or sensibility around global catastrophes and current events (remember his decision to hijack the #Cairo hashtag to promote his spring collection while millions were in uproar in 2011?), did it again in 2013. When he used the “boots on the ground” phrase referring to the presence of troops in Syria, to promote KC shoes, the designer provided yet another case study for why employees – from C-level executives to admins – need social media training.
"Boots on the ground" or not, let's not forget about sandals, pumps and loafers. #Footwear— Kenneth Cole (@KennethCole) September 5, 2013
Abercrombie & Fitch Inspires Marginalization
Keeping with the shameless clothing brands for a moment, we’d like to give a wag of the finger to Abercrombie & Fitch, for their “only cool, good-looking people” and “anti-plus size” policies. The company’s generally infuriating, non-inclusive branding choices inspired a video titled, “Fitch the Homeless” which, in an attempt to make satire out of A&F, managed to marginalize homeless people thereby doing more wrong. The video has now been watched by more than 8 million people on YouTube.
Lululemon’s Bad PR is as See-Through as its Pants
Last in our list of retailers that fumbled their PR this year, Lululemon is on our list for recalling a style of yoga pants this year after customers complained that the fabric wore thin and became see-through. In response to the debacle, a Lululemon spokesperson went on air to say that his company’s fitness apparel just doesn’t work on some women’s bodies and that plus-sized women should shop elsewhere.
Justine Sacco Tweeting about AIDS
Back to Twitter! Because it seems that not even some PR reps can avoid the temptation to tweet every thought – even those that should never even cross their minds. We’d like to add Justine Sacco to this list in light of her insensitive tweet that caused an immediate uproar which, by the time her flight landed, had already caused her to lose her job.
Last but not least in the Twitter category is JP Morgan. The beleaguered banking giant asked Twitter users to submit questions to one of its top deal-makers for a planned Twitter chat. Using the hashtag #AskJPM, the company said Jimmy Lee would be responding to queries on "leadership and life." What happened instead, was that the company was inundated with sarcastic questions and comments that demonstrated the public's still-raging anger at Wall Street.
Paula Deen is Glad 2013 is Over
Former Food Network star, Paula Deen is probably not happy to be on this list but is probably happy that this list indicates the year is over. In 2013, Deen dealt with a heavy media firestorm regarding accusations of workplace racism, which cost her endorsements and even her show. The celebrity chef made several media appearances to apologize and reflect on the lessons learned while on her downward spiral.
Mac Brown Rumor Mill
One local celebrity, University of Texas Austin football coach Mack Brown, was also in the limelight this year in a not-so-positive way. The sad, slow rumor mill that has been Mack Brown’s coaching season makes this list due to the University’s refusal to address the rumors directly and relying on vagueness and nonsense instead. Mack did not have the final season he wanted to or should have had, but the poor handling of the PR around his imminent retirement did not help to give him the farewell he really did deserve.
And now for something that affected the entire nation. When Healthcare.gov rolled out on October 1, 2013, it was plagued with problems— many that were technical in nature, others that were associated with the political struggles and lack of support from government republicans, and even more due to the communications obstacles and lack of education needed around this type of nationwide reform. The struggles prompted the President to embark on a three-week PR blitz to encourage people to enroll. The administration even set up a “demo” of sorts and showed the President himself signing up for a healthcare plan. Even as enrollment figures increase steadily – thanks to pushed back deadlines and a now working website – the launch of the reform and its online portal is one we can all take notes from in order to learn how to anticipate technical disasters and shift the conversation to focus on benefits and not technical bugs.
The Snowden Effect
Let’s go even bigger now, to something that has impacted the whole world. When Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor, disclosed classified NSA documents to media outlets, he created a PR nightmare for the administration, federal agencies, and technology companies, which have had to answer for internet surveillance programs as well as the interception of European telephone conversations. Snowden has been called everything – from traitor to patriot. What is certain is that Snowden’s leaks have permanently altered the U.S. government’s relationship with its citizens and the rest of the world.