The PR Guru

December 23, 2009

PR Gaffes of the Year 2009 (Part One)

As the end of the year rapidly approaches, we naturally take a look back at the past 12 months and reflect on whether it’s been a good one or not.

Conversation at office parties, pubs and clubs turns to the song of the year, the album of the year, and the film of the year. Even better this year, as it’s the end of the ‘Naughties’, we’ve been asked about our song of the decade ad nauseum.

No doubt you’ve been having the same conversations yourselves, as you wind down before the festivities.

Well, as ever we are happy to rip off people’s ideas 😉 so we thought we’d review the year from a PR point of view. I’m sure plenty of celebs, companies and organisations have had years to forget, but we just thought we’d prolong the agony a little bit more.

Well it’s their own fault, if they had a professional in charge none of this would’ve happened 🙂

So let’s start, as most years do, with January and February.

Sadly, from a PR perspective, we lost George Dubya from office in January – and how we would miss his foot in mouth disease. Things are so much more boring (and thankfully about a million times safer) with Obama in charge.

It was also the month Corrie bosses covered up a cross at the filming of Tyrone and Mollie’s wedding – for fear of offending viewers.

Offending people was the last thing on the mind of Tory MP Alan Duncan, who said “People who don’t say thank you at zebra crossings deserve to be run over.” It wouldn’t be the last time he was in the headlines this year for his (lack of) PR skills.

The crown for the biggest PR gaffe in January has to go to our own Prince Harry, who was filmed calling his fellow squaddies ‘Paki’ and ‘raghead’ while at a field camp in Cyprus.

The Royal Family has never been particularly good at PR, but Harry has picked up a nasty habit of hitting the front pages for the wrong reasons. Remember the Nazi costume he wore at the fancy dress party in 2005?

It’s one thing to believe it’s acceptable to use those phrases, another to use them in private – but to use them while filming a video diary???

We have no option but to hand the crown for PR gaffe for Jan 09 to Harry. The only crown he’ll be getting his hands on for a while, anyway.

Onto February now, and loads more celebs and public figures were playing right into our hands. Not least Carol Thatcher, who was sacked from The One Show for calling someone a gollywog. She was probably a little unfortunate at first, but by refusing to apologise she just made matters worse.

And Sharon Shoesmith, sacked by Haringey Council for her part in the Baby P affair, managed to somehow obliterate what was left of her reputation when she claimed in an interview her dismissal had been ‘politically motivated’. We didn’t really care – she just made herself look uncaring and unsympathetic.

There is only one contender for the February PR gaffe prize though. Good old (Sir) Fred Goodwin.

In the middle of a media firestorm that had burned a full four months by that time, it was revealed that Goodwin was going to receive a £693,000 a year pension.

It was obvious that Sir Fred was not interested in preserving his reputation, but simply in getting as much money as he could and then disappearing, hence his choice of how to handle the situation.

He went on the attack with arrogance and aggression in both public and private statements, refused to apologise or even try to justify his actions. No money was returned or donated to charity.

It was basically a “How Not to do PR” guide – from someone with more than enough cash to recruit a good PR agency.

Eventually, Sir Fred was persuaded to accept a smaller pension, but only after he’d been given a £2.7million tax-free lump sum from the pension fund.

So congratulations to Prince Harry and the UK’s favourite banker. Tomorrow we’ll be covering the gaffes from March and April.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by profilebuilder, Richard Swancott. Richard Swancott said: The biggest PR gaffes of 2009 (part one): […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention PR Gaffes of the Year 2009 (Part One) « The PR Guru -- — December 23, 2009 @ 4:30 pm | Reply

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by swannybrasco: The biggest PR gaffes of 2009 (part one):

    Trackback by uberVU - social comments — December 23, 2009 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

  3. I can’t wait to read more. I will bookmark you and come back to visit for more articles..

    Comment by cyprus tax — March 2, 2010 @ 10:45 pm | Reply

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