Public Relations Nightmares

Contrary to popular belief, Public Relations (PR) is not just an industry that thrives on the misconduct of large corporations. Nor is it an industry that only focuses on constructing inaccurate but appealing images of businesses and individuals. However, there are times that we watch what companies do and we go, “where the heck was their PR person?”

Here are some of those times and our takeaway: 


Uh- oh Spaghetti-Os is right.

While this isn’t blatantly crude or outright offensive, the Internet did not find it tasteful. In fact, Twitter users were pretty outraged. Why? Well, because what was probably meant to be a nice effort to acknowledge something in US history actually came across as tacky and opportunistic.

The takeaway here: when something tragic happens and your brand wants to acknowledge it, remember that your brand isn’t the focus – the tragedy is.

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Oh Abercrombie & Fitch… what will we do with you?

We get it, Mike Jeffries, the CEO of A&F, wants to be the brand that the cool kids want to wear and he doesn’t feel that the cool kids are also the “bigger” kids. Jeffries is strengthening the brand while simultaneously strengthening the hatred from those who are overweight.

The problem with his tactic, however, is that 68.8% of adults in America are OVERWEIGHT! That means that no matter what, a majority of the population is going to be offended by Jeffries and the brand that he has helped to build – and that population is going to be loud about it.

Check out this article for a full picture of what’s happened since Jeffries’ comments (including his recent apology and the viral video Greg Karber created  of himself going through thrift stores to find old A&F products to donate to the homeless).

The takeaway here: never underestimate an angry public. If you’re going to use harsh language, opinionated messaging and edgy advertising – make sure you’re ready to deal with the backlash and make sure your brand is strong enough to handle losing a few customers.

Some may argue that Jeffries is actually a genius and that his offensive marketing tactics work, however we will let the numbers speak for themselves.


* Source: CNN

It doesn’t necessarily have to be an ad, image or specific brand message that creates a PR disaster. Sometimes it can be the little (or big) things that you say while representing a brand.

This example pretty much takes the cake for online PR nightmare:


If you didn’t see this go down virally, here’s a breakdown of what happened:

Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro (yes, that is the real name) was on Kitchen Nightmares.

It didn’t go well.

Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro had a Facebook page.

That didn’t go well either.

We all know how Internet users can be – outspoken to say the least. The owners of Amy’s decided to fire back to negative comments after their appearance on Kitchen Nightmares with this Facebook status:


What happened next was a tornado of bad PR. You can read the entire showdown on BuzzFeed. 

The takeaway here: Beware of social media, use it but don’t abuse it. Things can get out of hand fast and once you have a ticked off Internet audience, all bets are off.

Make sure that someone responsible (and preferably good at spelling) is in charge of your social networking sites, have a reputation management plan in place and use proper online etiquette.

And just for fun, here are some flashbacks of “oh no you didn’t” marketing. Have some more for us to add? Share them with us on Facebook!