Public relations crises and scandals are and will remain plentiful. Let’s review which major companies are the worst to fear in 2015’s world of PR.
Security Hacks have been big this year, so have some sexual issues, sports scandals, and good old fashioned lies have made a big showing too. Then of course there are the innovators who like to show us something new in ways to torture PR reps. Let’s review…
It is amazing what people will get up to on the internet or with the aid of the internet. Cheaters have been around almost since the beginning of time, and there’s usually been someone nearby ready to make a salacious buck in connection to cheating, whether it’s pimps, blackmailers, or divorce lawyers. We’re not exactly sure which category the owners of Ashley Madison, the cheaters website, fall, but the hackers are a different story entirely. The ongoing nightmare of user names and other information being released in groups to the public is a nightmare situation for any company and their PR representatives. But there are some other shocking bits of information to this story.
There were 36 million accounts on this site. Even more baffling, far too many of the participants used passwords that made hacking something that could be “phoned in.” Over ¾ of a million users on the site had passwords like “password” or “1234567…” Really??? All we can say is if you are going to cheat, at least don’t be any more stupid in the process.
The disaster of Jared Fogle’s computer files seemed almost insurmountable considering a huge portion of Subway’s marketing was built around Fogle for the last 15 years. Fogle is being charged with possession of child pornography and with paying for sex with minors. By all accounts, he plans to plead guilty. At the moment, he’s under house arrest and wearing an ankle tracker. Presumably the local Subway is no longer on his acceptable places to visit.
Of course everyone was shocked, but surprisingly, one of the worst things the PR people have had to face with this scandal is that no one really cares about it, or Subway for that matter. That’s a really tough pill to swallow for a company with franchises across the U.S. The company’s decline started well in advance of the scandal and continues at approximately the same pace.
The Dugger family
Josh Dugger’s scandal hitting earlier this year about him sexually abusing five underage girls when he was younger was hard for the entire family. Not the learning about it, since it seems they already knew about it for years, but the public learning was hard. Then in August the second shoe dropped as everyone learned at the same time about Josh’s membership on the Ashley Madison website and ongoing participation in that lifestyle while being a conservative Christian lobbyist in Washington DC.
Shortly after that information came out, Josh checked himself into a rehab center. The family hasn’t commented on this latest information other than for Jim Bob to release a statement on their blog offering advice to others on being a good husband and father. Josh’s wife, Anna, has said that divorce is not a consideration on her part so they will work through it all.
And, at least one adult film actress has claimed that she made a “connection” with Josh through the Ashley Madison site. An entire family that only a year ago seemed to be at the height of popularity and a smiling voice of family ethics has gone almost completely silent because of the decisions of one of them.
There was a time in the U.S. that soccer was relatively unknown. That’s not the case anymore. Now almost every College and many High Schools field teams. World Cup fever runs high in the States, and we have National teams that do quite well most of the time. So when the scandal hit about big … nay, HUGE, bribes and fixes going on to determine the outcome of International matches well before the ball hit the field. The FBI issued indictments to 14 members of the International Committee in May 2015, just days after a new president had been elected, throwing the group into chaos.
And mid-September another scandal has hit the news, the Secretary, Jerome Valcke, of the group apparently arranged for a large block of tickets to International matches to be sold on the black market at a big markup. Part of the illicit profits would be kicked back to him.
Don’t think that the fallout from hacked emails of Sony Pictures is over and buried from further revelation. Former co-chair Amy Pascal’s scandalous emails are not limited to and from film producer Scott Rudin. Nor does the Sony disparagement only concern President Obama and A-listers like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, and Leonardo DiCaprio. There is plenty of PR dirt to sweep under the rug at Sony Pictures.
In the spring, Aaron Hernandez was convicted of the first-degree murder of Odin Lloyd. Now, the NFL has been added to the fray with Hernandez’ next legal battles. He faces criminal prosecution in Boston for killing two men and wounding another during a drive-by shooting. Alexander Bradley, a friend of Hernandez allegedly witnessed the drive-by shooting incident, Hernandez feared Bradley would inform on him, so he did the sensible (please recognize the sarcasm here) thing and shot Bradley in the face intending to kill him.
Bradley was blinded but lived. Bradley’s attorneys have filed a federal civil action against Hernandez and the NFL claiming the NFL were complicit since they were well aware of Hernandez’s fatal character flaw enjoying the opportunity to kill. Let’s face it, Hernandez’s coffers are probably going to be empty from the attorneys’ fees of the various criminal charges. So it would not be representing their client’s best interest to exclude the NFL from the case.
If Hernandez was the only scandal the NFL faced recently, they might actually think they were having a good year, but it isn’t. There was Deflategate with the Patriots with underinflated footballs. The Browns faced Textgate with cell phones being used to illegally inform team members on the sidelines about events on the field from their viewpoint in the stands. And for the Falcons it was Noisegate. The Dolphins brokered a deal with Suh during the time when no deals are to be made and then remembered just in time to delay actually signing the contract until they were a few hours into the legal time frame.
It almost seems that NFL should for stands for Next Fool Lying or Never Fair or Legal. What would you say NFL stands for?
CEO Satya Nadella is still recovering from his Grace Hopper conference gaffe when he opined that women who do not ask for more money from their employers would be rewarded in the long run after their work was recognized by Microsoft. Nadella did apologize, however, there may still be more PR cleanses in the works for Microsoft’s third CEO within a little over a year’s time.
The public relations team at GM can congratulate themselves for keeping 13 deaths over a decade resulting from defective car parts – but the honeymoon is over. The GM recall was forced and the compound question remaining is: Why didn’t GM managers communicate with one another about the faulty parts and step up for their accountability?
In June, NBA referee Tim Donaghy confessed to using inside information when betting on games. His friend did all the bets in his name, and the two benefited together. Donaghy had access to who the referees would be at different games and since he knew the officials so well, he was very good at predicting outcomes.
The friend who placed the bets ended up passing along information about Donaghy to the people who he placed bets with (the mob). The mob does what it is alleged to do best, they made Donaghy an offer hoping he couldn’t refuse them.
Who knows what will be the next big scandal to hit the news..