Passion Communications

Recent PR & Social Media blunders, bloopers and boners


Here we have put together some of the recent PR & Social Media screw-ups, which will be remembered for its social media blunders, misguided ads and CEO flubs.

1. #RIPRobinWilliams Edelman PR Disaster

This year PR Giant Edelman messed up once more. The day after Robin Williams’ death on August 11, 2014, Lisa Kovitz, who is Edelman’s media relations manager, uploaded a blog post “As we mourn the loss of Robin Williams to depression, we must recognize it as an opportunity to engage in a national conversation”. In other words, Robin Williams’ death was called a PR “opportunity”. Although, she tried to promote groups advocating for better treatment of mental illness, a few readers found this post to be offensive. Some called Edelman a “soulless PR conglomerate” misusing a celebrity’s suicide to advertise its own expertise. Two days later Lisa Kovitz publicly apologized on Twitter saying “We apologize to anyone we offended with our post. We did not intend to capitalize on the passing of a great actor who contributed so much”.  Although, apology was made, Edelman’s media relations manager refused to delete the blog post.

Using someone’s death does not seem to be a decent way to demonstrate PR firm’s expertise or professionalism. Over 30,000 Twitter followers shared their complaints regarding Edelman’s post. “Using someone’s death as an opportunity to position yourself as THE PR Company to walk potential clients through the best way to benefit from this ‘conversation’ is callous”, said commenter Erin Blaskie (see AdWeek.com, PR Giant Edelman Apologizes for Calling Robin Williams’ Death an ‘Opportunity’).

2. #GotInsurance – Obama care campaign

As sad as it sounds – Obama care online campaign has done more harm than good. In his 5-step online insurance campaign, Obama’s team has come up with at least thirty different advertisements, which completely led to a massive PR blunder. The content of these ads had everything from party girls and bloody kids to keg-stands to sell insurance. As some of the bloggers put it- this campaign could have been defined as “eyebrow-raising” campaign. #GotInsurance is a product of collaboration between Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and ProfressNow Colorado Education, which apparently could not succeed in drawing attention of this particular segment of young Americans. Paul Argenti, who is a cooperate communication expert and professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business said, “Depending upon which state you were in, you were subjected to sexually suggestive ads [Obama care ads] that were degrading to women or sports that encouraged reckless behavior with young men standing on top of kegs”. Obama care PR campaign has eventually suffered some bad consequences such as inspiring opponents to create even worse fake ads, which in fact managed to draw focus on something that was already going badly.

3. JPMorgan’s Twitter Fail

JP Morgan’s epic 2013 failure caused a severe negative publicity after trying to set up a Q&A on Twitter. This day, November 6, will be remembered for quite a long time. It had it all: misconception of social media, misunderstanding the public, and a horrible timing. JPMorgan launched a Twitter campaign Q&A about leadership and career advice hosted by a famous banker Jimmy Lee; participants of this campaign were encouraged to use the hashtag #AskJPM. A few days past and JPMorgan tweeted: “JPMorgan VC Jimmy Lee is taking over @JPMorgan on 11/14. Tweet Qs using #AskJPM”. Within one day, there were 18,669 tweets using the #AskJPM hashtag, and all of them were the definition of negative publicity. Instead of boosting up their Social Media presence, JPMorgan got the following tweets from other users.

Does the sleaze wash off with a regular shower, or do you have to use something special like babies tears? #AskJPM
I have Mortgage Fraud, Market Manipulation, Credit Card Abuse, Libor Rigging and Predatory Lending. Am I diversified? #AskJPM
Did you have a specific number of people’s lives you needed to ruin before you considered your business model a success? #AskJPM
When Jamie Dimon eats babies are they served rare? I understand anything above medium-rare is considered gauche. #AskJPM
Do you have a secret jail in your offices so your executives get at least one chance to see the inside of one? #AskJPM
What’s the best way to get blood stains out of a clown suit? #AskJPM
What’s it like working with Mexican drug cartels? Do they tip? #AskJPM
Do your clothes fit better since you don’t have the added weight of a soul? #AskJPM

What we have to learn from the mentioned above cases is that PR or Social Media departments always have to be conscious about the “worst case scenario” in such social campaigns. Social Media presence is good; it is needed and required in today’s marketing world; however, if treated wrong it might do more harm than good.

Next week we will showcase some outstanding PR examples.