The PR Guru

December 31, 2009

PR Gaffes of the Year 2009 (Part Three)

Apologies for the delay with this update, I succumbed to the dreaded lurgy this week.

Anyway, moving swiftly on to May’s PR disasters, there are a few to choose from. Pigs were continuing to get a bad rep for spreading their swine flu around.

And Silvio Berlusconi was back in the news after his wife filed for divorce, after claims the 72-year-old had attended a young girl’s 18th birthday party.

With his usual dignity and humility, he subsequently blamed the story on his political opponents in the Italian media, and bizarrely claimed his soon-to-be-ex-wife had fallen into a trap!

Perhaps he should have been more contrite and apologised for his behaviour?

But by far the biggest story of May 2009 – and the obvious winner of the prize for this month – was the MPs’ expenses scandal.

Using documents leaked by a civil servant, the Telegraph revealed over the course of several weeks that the British tax payer had footed the bill for:

  • toilet seats,
  • bath plugs,
  • biscuits,
  • teddy bears,
  • a duck house (my own personal favourite),
  • chimney sweeps,
  • a moat-cleaning,
  • porn,
  • dry-rot
  • and a partridge in a pear tree (sorry, I’ve still got my Christmas head on).

Perhaps the most galling element of the whole story was the insistence by many MPs they had done nothing wrong. Many, including our own favourite Alan Duncan, still feel they did nothing wrong.

Well perhaps that’s true, according to the letter of the law, but did they not think such crass waste of our money might grate with us, just slightly?

I have no problem with our money being used to pay for the spending associated with holding the highest office in the country. I have no problem with them having a second home, if their constituency is a distance away from London.

But duck houses??? Moat cleaning???

Whether this has done untold damage to Westminster’s reputation remains to be seen. I suppose we will find out at the ballot box next year. But it’s not exactly endeared MPs to the rest of us, has it?

On the plus side at least they have won our tinpot prize for May.

June was also a good month, with Sir Fred Goodwin kindly agreeing to reduce his pension by £200,000 per year (although he kept his £2.8m lump sum and his £2.6m bonus, and will still rake in £345,000 pa), and scores of Government ministers resigning.

And WHSmiths embarrassingly ruined their Father’s Day gift displays by suggesting ‘The Crimes of Josef Fritzl’ as a possible present! Perhaps they thought of it as a ‘How Not To…’ guide.

But the winners for June had to be the French. Some might say they are a walking PR disaster and deserve a category all of their own! I could not possibly comment on that 🙂

However, they certainly did themselves no favours this summer. Not content with refusing to invite the Queen to their D-Day celebrations at the end of May, they were also on the receiving end of an hilarious snub from President Obama!

News came out in June that the President and First Lady, in France attending those D-Day celebrations, declined a dinner invitation from their French counterparts, Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni.

Relations between the two leaders have not been great, since Sarkozy privately criticised Obama’s supposed lack of knowledge on climate change, but this is unlikely to improve them – to the amusement of those of us looking in.

It capped a bad couple of weeks for Sarkozy, pilloried by his own media for his snub to Queen Elizabeth, and while he had no part in this himself, he can have this prize as a little consolation.



  1. Good points, I think I will definitely subscribe! I’ll go and read some more! What do you see the future of this being?

    Comment by Me — January 8, 2010 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

    • That’s very kind of you, thanks!

      I will continue to post my thoughts on PR gaffes in the news, as well as interviews with well-known entrepreneurs (look out for my first podcast on Jan 22nd), and tips and advice for small businesses on how they can make the most of PR themselves.

      Hope this is of interest!

      Comment by richardswancott — January 11, 2010 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

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