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Lessons from some of PR’s biggest blunders

Even the biggest of companies are not immune to the odd public relations mistake. Whether caused through pure accident, carelessness or just stupidity, there’s a proven record that people are not that forgiving and these errors can haunt your company for years to come. We’ve rounded up a few examples where seemingly small oversights have turned into giant PR disasters almost overnight, and are clearly not so quickly forgotten. American Apparel’s Challenger Explosion post american apparel Clothing giant American Apparel were quick to apologise after the company posted a stylised picture to one of its social media pages of the Challenger space shuttle disaster. Apparently confused for clouds or fireworks, the company suffered mass public and media backlash for their insensitive post. Irish Motor company’s Facebook competition denis motors While online competitions are usually a sure fire way to build up extra likes Irish car dealership, Denis Mahony Motors, ended up with even less fans after their competition gaffe. The dealership was offering fans the opportunity to win a brand new Mercedes by simply liking their Facebook page. The likes started flooding in with thousands clicking the company’s page. When it was revealed that the ‘car’ was actually a miniature model, fan anger erupted. While the majority of people ended up unliking the page, as well as trailing abuse down the page, the company ended up with less likes than when they started. DiGiorno Pizza #WhyIStayed digiorno-whyistayed-tweet-hed-2014 The #WhyIStayed hashtag was first started to highlight the issue of domestic violence within the NFL with people using the hashtag to tell their own personal stories and experiences. An employee at DiGiorno Pizza was obviously unfamiliar with what the hashtag actually meant and tweeted: ‘#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” After the ensuing backlash, the business quickly removed the post and apologised. Malaysia Airlines ‘bucket list’ promotion malaysia When your brand has been associated with 2 major crashes it’s advisable to shy away from anything involving a ‘bucket list’. Malaysia Airlines however made the mistake of tweeting a new promotional deal with “What and where would you like to tick off on your bucket list?” Suffice to say the response was not positive. The company swiftly apologized and renamed the contest “Win an Ipad or Malaysia Airlines flight to Malaysia.” Oreo retweets racial slur twitter-oreo-mondelez1 Oreo had set up a new online promotion offering customers the chance to be among the first to try the new U.S limited-edition cookie flavours. As part of the campaign fans had to tweet the link along with Oreo’s twitter handle. An auto-reply function was set up which automatically re-tweeted the user’s handle and message from Oreo’s official account. The problem appeared when it turned out a fan had used a racial slur as their handle and Oreo unknowingly retweeted it to over half and million followers. An apology was issued and the competition quickly came to an end. American Apparel’s #sandysale american-apparelsandysale During 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, American Apparel launched a ‘Hurricane Sandy Sale’, sending the ‘In case you’re bored during the storm’ email to hundreds of thousands of shoppers. Unsurprisingly, their attempt to leverage profits during a natural disaster did not go well sparking a giant backlash on social media and in the news. So what can we learn from these PR mistakes? It’s important to hire good people who not only understand your company’s values, but are willing to go to bat for you. It’s also very important to understand that certain issues can come back to bite you if you’re not careful.