Bad PR: 4 of the Worst Public Relations Ideas Ever


There always seems to be people thinking they had a good idea starting out and then things turned south in a big way once it hits the internet. From the damage control side of the PR business, sometimes you are not able to stop clients reacting badly on the internet, in response to their efforts going south.

bill cosby memeThe Bill Cosby Meme

It should be understood, the internet is a very big place and inviting people to respond on the web about their thoughts on an issue means you’ve just lost control of the outcome. Bill Cosby’s social media and PR team with all good intentions we are sure, put the man out at night in the dark woods and thought Goldilocks would visit. Instead, the wolves howled. Well, maybe that’s a bad analogy since America’s Dad has been shown to have some bad sexual habits at the least and at the worst, criminal. Leaving broken lives in his wake.

So when the team invited fans to “meme me” thinking that his decades-old rape allegations crisis had long ago been relegated to the dusty tomes of history, they forgot. The internet never forgets. What ensued threw Cosby into a PR catastrophe for him and his team.

Additional accusations and questions about his character and treatment of women during the prime years of his career flooded them. That influx of information created Cosby’s current situation taking him from the heights of his amazing career to the level of social pariah within weeks. It’s hard to imagine he’ll live long enough to overcome the backlash.


nfl pr fail

NFL Bashing

Seriously, the NFL may want to consider personality testing or a mandatory stint in rehab before a rookie is ever allowed into training camp. We offer that bit of wisdom only half-jokingly since every year seems to have a few problems with the players not knowing how to behave in the civilized world. 2014 started with TMZ’s release of footage showing Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens dragging his unconscious future wife from a hotel elevator.

The NFL responded by giving a slap on the wrist and then sending him back out to do battle on the gridiron. Things stayed calm for several weeks and then TMZ hit with another nightmare video of the actual punching in the elevator. One lesson that should be learned is just because the media is quiet at the moment doesn’t mean they aren’t still working the story.

But then, a series of incidents including criminal conduct and domestic violence scandals poured in and the only saving grace comes as the NFL has been dealing more aggressively with these problems. Now, being honest, open, immediate, and expecting better from their players and staff members. We’ll have to see if their plan continues to work, or if they ultimately need to take more drastic measures.

digiorno public relations fail

DiGiorno’s Lack of Research

Trending hashtags related to the NFL domestic violence incidents of #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft were hitting Twitter awhile back. And DiGiorno’s saw the trending hashtag about staying and thought of a good response, immediately tweeting #WhyIStayed – You had pizza. Only the person who sent that tweet would be able to say for certain if they knew what the hashtag was all about or not when they hit send. The brand is known for a somewhat cavalier and snarky sense of social media marketing. But it would seem they might not have since they deleted the post almost immediately.

As we stated before, the internet is huge, and it doesn’t forget. Even if that post lived on the internet for only about 10 seconds, it was long enough that people had a chance to respond, retweet with damning commentary and probably more than one took a screen shot.

DiGiorno then started apologizing with explanations that they responded without researching and that they knew better. It’s an easy mistake to understand. If the hashtag had actually been about something fun and frivolous, DiGiorno’s reaction would have won them big PR points, instead, 10 seconds on the tweet and forever repenting retweets.

From another perspective, something positive has come out of the above three PR nightmares, as a society we’re talking about issues that for centuries was a taboo topic. Women and men all around the world should take pride in those changes. Now, let’s move to a few 2015 incidents:

Mentality Nail Polish

Mentality Nail Polish

Mentality makes a lot of different nail polishes, paints, decorations, and other related products. But one line of their products with an Arminex base had serious side effects for some women. Mentality is a popular indie brand, but some women experienced redness, burning, and nails lifting off the nail beds in reaction to the Arminex in products purchased between April and June 2015. That’ a problem.

Worse problem, after the initial issue hit the internet through help from various beauty blogs and articles, the co-owner, Danny Daniels responded a lot to email requests for replacements in a short period of time, he then hit his Facebook page. This one falls in the category that even the best PR people can’t always stop their clients from shooting themselves in the foot. Daniels ranted on Facebook about having spent hours trying to help and fix the problem, looking at hours more ahead of him.

Maybe he suffered a minor breakdown from all that pressure, but he essentially told people he was sick of taking care of this problem and was ready to move on. Not long after that, another status update hit their Facebook page offering a half-price sale on the product that was causing all the problems.

Mentality later admitted they had never tested the Arminex because doing so was “ridiculously expensive.” Eventually, Mentality issued a full recall of the Arminex-base products. We wonder how ridiculously expensive this debacle was by the end.

50 Shades Grey

50 Shades of Grey

One might forgive EL James, the author of the book for thinking a Twitter Q&A was a good idea since the book was a very hot, even steamy, seller for a long time. But, by now you should be able to repeat this with us, the internet is big. and it does not easily forget. You might have 10 million fans, and that would be an amazing accomplishment. But there are approximately 1 trillion Twitter accounts.

So people who didn’t like the storyline with its controlling and abusive behavior toward women hijacked the Q&A along with some latent red pencil bearing English teachers. And you can guess the ultimate outcome.

Do you have any big PR blunders or bad Public Relations campaigns  – that we did not mention? Share it below in the comments!

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