PR Gone Bad: 5 Examples Of What NOT To Do With Your Brand

When done correctly, great PR campaigns can save even the most tarnished of brand images. Done incorrectly, however, PR campaigns can prove to not only be ineffective in saving a company’s image but can actually cause more harm than good. Here are 5 recent examples of PR mistakes made by some of today’s largest (and most successful companies):

Mistake #1: Using your PR firm to smear the competition instead of actively promoting your own brand.

In May 2011, Facebook was outed for having hired PR Firm Burson-Marsteller to actively smear Google and its new social media effort, Google+ by planting stories and spreading dubious “facts” about Google invading the privacy of users, hoping that the media would pick up the story and effectively end Google’s social media effort. Once found out, many users were outraged at Facebook’s poor ethics in this matter.

Mistake #2: Not responding at all to consumers on social media outlets.

Starbucks, a hugely profitable company that prides itself on customer service and interaction with its consumers, hosts an official Facebook page (linked from its own website), on which thousands of comments, praises, and notably, complaints are posted to – none of which are responded to by the company.

Mistake #3: Responding to consumers, but doing so negatively.

Apple, another very popular and successful company known for its superior customer service, suffered a PR setback of its own when CEO Steve Jobs sent an email response to an inquiring college student, effectively telling her to “please leave us alone.”

Mistake #4: Acknowledging consumers’ concerns, then dismissing them.

After Groupon’s 2011 Super Bowl Ads were deemed highly insensitive to very serious social issues by many of their own consumers, Groupon pulled the ads and issued this statement on their blog, explaining the rationale behind their ads but offering no official apology.

Mistake #5: Failing to respond to a crisis immediately.

With no “worst case scenario” crisis plan in place for the failure of the brake systems in their cars in 2010, Toyota angered and disappointed many of its consumers and corporate partners by failing to immediately address this very serious issue. Though a successful PR campaign was eventually rolled out to combat the negative press they received as a result, many were already disenchanted with the brand.

So what’s the moral of this story? All brands, no matter how big or small, need to make sure that they are taking care of their customers at all times, in all arenas. Though all the companies listed in the examples above have maintained their success throughout these PR blunders, one has to wonder, if it’s happened once, will it happen again? And will their customers be as understanding next time?

-Stephanie G.

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One Response to PR Gone Bad: 5 Examples Of What NOT To Do With Your Brand

  1. Stephanie says:

    Stephanie, these are great points. Given the complexity of PR on any scale, we often get so caught up in what to do, we don’t realize the value in knowing what not to do before it’s too late. Thanks for the realistic and insightful tips!