The PR Guru

December 24, 2009

PR Gaffes of the Year 2009 (Part Two)

March saw UK Financial Investments, the body managing the UK taxpayers’ stake in the bailed-out banks, reveal that Royal Bank of Scotland could have slashed Fred Goodwin’s pension in half by sacking him, and online backup company Carbonite admit to losing 7500 customer backups.

And as a precursor of things to come later in the year, Tory MP Caroline Spelman was forced to make a humiliating apology for spending £10000 of taxpayers’ money on her nanny. And most importantly repay the cash.

The money had come from Spelman’s expenses, breaking Commons rules. She described it as an ‘unintentional’ breach – little did we know how many times would we hear that description in 2009!

Westminster’s reputation certainly took one helluva battering this year.

The prize for March has to go to Stoke-on-Trent City Council though. My local council is no stranger to the PR gaffe (despite spending almost £1m per year on their press and PR office), and this one is no worse than some of the other disasters, but it just made me smile.

This time they hit the headlines for building a new library in Stoke town centre, a sanctuary for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life – right next to a loudspeaker repair shop!

This was despite repeated warnings from shop owner Simon Boote before construction work began.

Not only that, but they then complained about the noise! Mr Boote could now be forced to close his business, SGB World Services, which hires and tests PA systems.

So, congratulations to Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which surely deserves the prize for their services to the PR industry over several years.

April was another good month for PR gaffes.

One lead to panic in New York City, as the US Defense Department approved a new photoshoot for Air Force One, the President’s plane. Not controversial in itself, but which idiot decided it was a good idea to have a plane flying very low over Manhattan?

This one.

This is Louis Caldera, director of the White House Military Office and the man who authorised the shoot, supposedly without President Obama’s knowledge. He resigned shortly after the incident.

Maybe you should tell the people of Manhattan before your next photoshoot, eh?

April was also the month Italian President Silvio Berlusconi decided to insert his Size 9 forcefully into his mouth – not for the first time, and I’m sure not the last.

He suggested the 17000 Italians made homeless by the country’s biggest earthquake for 30 years should ‘see it as a camping trip’. Yes, what a brilliant little jolly, forced to deal with sub zero temperatures for God knows how long and sleep next to people you barely know!

Just how on Earth has this man become a billionaire? It gives hope to the rest of us at least.

But the prize for this month has to go to Domino’s Pizza employees Kristy Hammonds and Michael Setzer, who posted a video of themselves doing disgusting things to sandwiches on YouTube.

The duo filmed themselves putting cheese up their noses, bogies on the food, and ‘violating other health code standards’ which shouldn’t be revealed on a family blog.

Needless to say there was an online outcry, and caused huge damage to the Domino’s brand in the States. Within a couple of days, the video had been viewed over a million times, and it dominated search engine results.

The pair were fired and arrested, before being charged with delivering prohibited foods. The company is also preparing to sue them.

Domino’s acted decisively, but took far too long to respond, hoping the furore would die down. By the time they’d released a statement, two days after the video was posted, the damage was done.

It certainly makes you wonder which bonus toppings are actually arriving on your Domino’s pizza doesn’t it!

We’ll be back on the 27th with our review of May and June.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Richard Swancott, Richard Swancott. Richard Swancott said: The biggest PR disasters of March & April: http://wp.me/pERPs-1x […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention PR Gaffes of the Year 2009 (Part Two) « The PR Guru -- Topsy.com — December 24, 2009 @ 3:47 pm | Reply


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