Biggest PR gaffes of 2011

So, this blog entry almost writes itself, right? You could write this one in a heartbeat, right? So let’s just get started. These are in no particular order (and I’m taking a gamble that no one could do anything stupider than these during the next three weeks. If anyone does, look for an update.):

  1. Herman Cain. If you’re going to run for president with such braggadocio, and boast about how you’re the CEO of Self, you’d better count the costs before you begin. Maybe Mr. Cain thought he was doing all the women who rose up against him a favor by gracing them with his presence. Rest assured, though, that he didn’t fall because of a hostile media. He fell because he had neither the character nor the experience nor the intelligence to deserve what is still the world’s most powerful position. His PR gaffe was basic. The messaging and consistency of messaging were terrible, of course, but even more damaging was that the product was flawed from the start and ultimately couldn’t be disguised.
  2. Anthony Weiner. He started out alleging that his Twitter account had been hacked. Then he said the bulge wasn’t his. Then he said he would answer all questions. Then he said he had answered all questions, even though he hadn’t. Then he got angry with the media because he didn’t want to talk any more. Then he fessed up but vowed not to quit the House. And then he quit the House. Obviously, this was handled poorly from the second Weiner mistakenly sent his public Tweet instead of making it a DM. Like Cain, there seemed to be some delusional pride here, and Weiner believed he could get away with anything. Wrong!
  3. Charlie Sheen. Charlie’s week of ranting certainly drew lots of attention, and his Twitter following ballooned quickly to include nearly 5.5 million people today. But he left us all wondering whether he was on the verge of a breakdown or even losing all touch with reality. It’s too early to say whether he has reconsidered his behavior, but it looks as though he’s trying his best to rebuild his reputation. His conciliatory appearance on the Emmys was a step in the right direction. Sitting still for an often brutal roast on Comedy Central helped. He’s looking a bit more humble these days, judging from his Twitter profile, in which he calls himself an (unemployed) winner. And he’s getting behind some causes like Toys for Tots and Meals on Wheels. It’s just a shame that he dug himself such a large hole to have to emerge from.
  4. Penn State. Where to begin on this one. Again, the failure started with inaction and a coverup long before the story broke. And once the story came out, the university only reluctantly acted to fire Joe Paterno and the university president, allowing Paterno to suggest at one point that he’d be allowed to play out the football season as head coach. There’s no way to make up for what has happened, of course, but the situation was aggravated even more by Penn State’s not getting the story – all the story – out at once after it started breaking.
  5. Bank of America – Try to charge us $5 a month to use debit cards after all the breaks you’ve gotten since 2008? Come on.
  6. Netflix – People loved Netflix at the beginning of 2011. Now they’re angry and/or confused. Price increases were poorly communicated. A plan to break off the streaming business from the DVD business drew so much wrath that it was rescinded as quickly as it was announced. (That was quick, Qwixter!) Millions of customers unsubscribed, and shareholders sold off the stock in droves. Bad marketing, bad communication, bad public relations. And so unnecessary.
  7. Rupert Murdoch – News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch didn’t hesitate for a second when asked in an investigation by Parliament whether he accepted responsibility for his company’s cell-phone hacking scandal. “No,” he said. We tell our kids to say they’re sorry when they’ve done something wrong or let something spin out of control. Murdoch never got the lesson, it seems.

Those are the ones that come to mind for me. Leave a comment if you want to add to the list.

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2 Responses to Biggest PR gaffes of 2011

  1. marilyn mcguire says:

    How about Mrs Clarence Thomas inviting Anita Hill to apologize to her?

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