Contrary to popular opinion, not all publicity is good publicity. In the world of Public Relations, perception is everything. Whilst you may spend hours coining the next big idea to influence audience opinion, it’s how you manage your brand’s voice and react to backlash that defines the success of your campaign.

So, when your campaign and brand is dragged through the mud and you have a PR crisis on your hands, how do you react? Ignore it and hope it blows over, or address it and learn from your mistakes?

Unfortunately, some brands decide to bury their head in the sand, point fingers or just ignore the situation all together. We take a look at some of the biggest PR fails of the past decade.



In 2013, Sony Pictures was hacked by a group called the “Guardians of Peace” in a scandal The Guardian called “the largest corporate attack in history”.

In a bid to stop Sony Pictures releasing its controversial movie, ‘The Interview,’ “Guardians of Peace” gained access to the personal records of over 40,000 employees and leaked several embarrassing emails from the studio’s heads.

Following the hack, Sony CEO Michael Lynton and co-chairman Amy Pascal came out and stated that the hack was a ‘malicious and criminal act’ claiming they were working with law enforcement to mitigate the damage.

Soon after, Sony decided to cancel the release of the film which was based around an assassination plot on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un North; and distributed it digitally instead. The company then received backlash from the public for giving in to the attackers.


Back in 2010, BP found themselves in the midst of what CNN labelled as the ‘worst environmental disaster in history’ as the seal of an oil well in the Gulf of Mexico failed. This quickly snowballed, causing the worst oil spill in history, which led to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig to explode, killing 11 workers and causing oil and methane gas to pour into the ocean for around four months afterwards.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just BP’s negligence that tarnished the brand’s reputation but their reaction to the events. The CEO at the time, Tony Hayward, mindlessly commented ‘I want my life back’ when issuing a formal apology which highlighted a serious lack of ownership of the situation. Hayward was promptly fired from his position following the disaster.


In 2010, Greenpeace released a video in protest of Nestle’s unethical use of palm oil. The video portrayed an office worker who opened a KitKat, only to find an Orangutan finger instead of chocolate. Greenpeace even parodied the KitKat slogan, amending it to be “Have a break? Give the Orangutans a break.”

Instead of addressing the problem, Nestle’s response was to cry copyright and demand YouTube remove the video. The video was removed, but not before causing a public outcry. Nestle were slammed on social media for the situation, but ultimately decided to delete those comments. Bad move Nestle!

Don’t be disheartened, a crisis doesn’t have to spell disaster if you handle it in the right way. If your campaign has got a few backs up, put on a brave face, accept responsibility and apologise. Make sure you formulate an acceptable response as soon as possible, don’t wait until it’s too late to control the damage.

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