In many parts of the country, it may seem like we’re in January Part 4—this winter has been WEIRD AF, right? Thanks Obama. But we’ve actually entered Q2 of 2018, which makes it a perfect time to reflect back on some of the biggest PR disasters of the first three months of the year. And there are some doozies!
United Airlines. We all know United had multiple f***ups in 2017 (reminder: HERE and HERE). Recent behavior indicates they haven’t done much work to improve company culture in the intervening months, because in mid-March, a flight attendant forced a pet owner to put her dog, in its carrying case, in the overhead compartment during the flight. The owner argued but eventually complied, and the dog died during the flight. (Read the full story HERE.) It’s not a good look for United, and another reminder of the company’s lack of anything resembling a customer-first policy.
The NFL. It’s another brand that struggled with controversy last year. Now, in the midst of a cultural shift around sexual harassment, assault and discrimination, the NFL is in hot water. A former cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints filed a complaint after being fired for a photo she posted on Instagram. That opened the door for various NFL teams’ cheerleader handbooks to be made public—and there’s some truly ugly stuff in them, including rules on what attire cheerleaders can wear off-duty; how to use hygiene products; and, for some, mandates about maintaining at the “ideal” body weight. The revelations come at a time when mistreatment of women is being taken with a higher degree of seriousness, which—on top of the NFL’s other issues around domestic violence—will continue to dog the league.
Facebook. By now, you’ve surely heard about the effect that Russian trolls, who used Facebook as their tool, impacted the 2016 election by posting fake and misleading information on the channel. But perhaps the most devastating news to the 14-year-old company was the revelation that Cambridge Analytica, a data and analytics firm associated with Republican actors, had scraped the data of millions of Facebook users without their permission. Facebook learned of the breach in late 2015‚ but only went public about the breach when it was already outed. Mark Zuckerberg, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Facebook, appeared in front of Congress this week, and though his performance helped boost Facebook stocks, it didn’t reassure lawmakers. The #DeleteFacebook movement continues as lawmakers mull over potential regulations. The rest of 2018 is bound to be bumpy for the OG social media network.
What PR crises have stuck out to you so far this year?