2021 PR disasters in review—3 examples of crisis mismanagement

by | Oct 22, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

The list of everything going on in the world right now—from the pandemic to civil unrest and navigating through severe weather seasons—is endless. This set of events has had an overwhelming effect on people, and in these situations it is not always easy for organizations to see a clear path forward where communication strategies are concerned. It is apparent now that disasters and crises can hit at any time, and when one hits a business, how it responds in the immediate aftermath is crucial.

Today, PR practitioners responding to a crisis PR situation have to be especially vigilant to ensure that the modern media, with its reliance on social networking sites, doesn’t make the situation worse. Given below are examples of some questionable PR moves that teach valuable lessons on how to shepherd brands through chaos.

1) The impact of Instagram

A series of stories in The Wall Street Journal revealed how Facebook put profit over the health and safety of billions of its users. Threats by lawmakers to regulate the company followed. Facebook itself had been studying the effect of Instagram on its users since 2019, and an internal presentation on it had been revealed to the WSJ. The presentation showed how harmful the app can be for teenagers. If Facebook had released the research in 2019, this would have been an effective communication strategy .

2) Snickers ad in Spain

Snickers’ advertisement for its ice cream bars in Spain was withdrawn after it faced accusations of homophobia. The ad featured Spanish influencer Aless Gibaja ordering at a restaurant, wearing pink, and behaving in a stereotypically feminine manner. Once he eats a Snickers ice cream bar he is transformed into a bearded man before the Snickers tagline appears:  ‘You are not you when you are hungry’. The website LGBTQnation.com called the ad “shameful and pitiful.” The brand issued an apology and removed the online content. Since these days there is much emphasis put on freedom and individuality, the ad caused a miscommunication which could have been avoided.

3) Ronaldo and Coca Cola

During a pre-match press conference, Ronaldo noticed that two bottles of Coca Cola were in front of him. He removed the soft drinks from the view of the cameras and replaced them with a bottle of water. He held up the bottle of water before setting it down and said ‘Aqua’  in an apparent attempt to urge people to drink water instead of Coca Cola. The company lost $4 billion in value. Coca Cola acted calmly, noting that players had every right to choose their beverage.

Such challenges show that remaining silent in the face of crisis PR issues is not an option. By identifying crises and addressing them effectively, it will be easier to navigate difficult roads ahead.

Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and Chairman of 5W Public Relations: 5WPR is one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.