Some 2020 Crisis PR Disasters

2020-10-11 by EPR Staff

What are some of the major 2020 crisis PR disasters?

We asked some experts and got the following.

According to Chris Norris, Managing editor at, “In this fast-paced digital world, with social media readily available to almost everyone it’s scary to make any mistakes, especially in public. Just thinking about it would be exhausting as the backlash would be massive that it cannot easily be forgotten. As a mental health professional, I know for a fact that it would be hard for someone to go through this ordeal. Although it is unavoidable, it can be corrected, and eventually, will pass.  

Burger King’s Veganuary backlash. The food chain released a campaign to promote their new product which is a burger that is supposedly suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Unfortunately, this campaign was bashed because the product contains mayonnaise which is made with egg yolk and the burgers were cooked on the same grill as the meat-based option. The company eventually conveyed that their burger may not be safe for vegetarians and vegans and had put a warning on their advertisements to correct it. 

Oh Polly’s competition for NHS Workers recoil. Oh Polly is an online women fashion boutique. It was hooked up with controversy when they recently put up a competition for NHS workers. When a nurse won but will not be able to attend the virtual party due to her 12-hour shift, she was told that she won’t be able to get her prize if she won’t make it to the virtual party. The winner took it to Twitter and it went viral.”

George Bradley, the PR Manager at Circa Interactive, a higher education marketing company based in San Diego said, “I think it has to be said that COVID-19 proved in itself to be a PR disaster in 2020. We have to ask the question of how public relations and the media could have responded better to the pandemic. I think that the most important thing to note is that the spread of misinformation was rife.

Here at Circa, we utilized our clients expertise and thought leadership to push out information that would ultimately help the general public and build overall trust around the brands. If you look holistically at COVID from a media lens, then it certainly spun out of control and the genuine thought leadership from faculty, experts and doctors was often drowned out by “fake news” and misinformation.”

Alex Libutti at Libutti Media said the biggest 2020 crisis pr disaster was “…Boeing. I think it gets overlooked often as COVID simply took over 2020, but Boeing had quite the start to 2020. After two 737’s crashed in 2019, everybody lost some faith in them. While it is inexcusable to have life be lost due to a product issue, life isn’t perfect. Instead of trying to do the right thing, though, they instead chose to deny anything and everything.

After that, we saw the emails rummaging about the mocking of the upper level management and how they felt the whole thing was a sham to begin with. If Boeing owed up to it and worked to make things right, it could be easier for them. Just one PR example that I still today think about how it “could” have been handled. Nonetheless, a surefire PR disaster.”

Crisis pr remains a focus for us at