As any senior member of a company will know, handling personal relations in the modern world isn’t always easy.

With social media adding fuel to the fire, your positive reputation can be ruined in an instant.

This isn’t helped by sensationalist journalists, who will spin a story to fit their own agenda.

This world that we live in means that many people have faced PR fails over the years, and though some might think its inevitable, there are things that you can prevent in.

We thought we’d help you do just that, by showing you some of the biggest PR fails in recent years that you can learn from and avoid repeating in 2019.


Using Someone Famous To Trivialize Political Issues

Many larger companies use celebrities in their marketing strategies, to endorse their products on their personal social media accounts or as part of their online advertisements.

This can work very well, as celebrities careers are based on the trust they have with their audience, and their established fanbase gives you a ready-made audience to target with your strategies.

Using celebrities also allows you to benefit from crowd mentalities, because if people see them doing or using something they are much more likely to want to do this themselves.

There are ways that using celebrities can go wrong, however, such as the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi advert, where they insinuated that their canned drink could resolve political unrest.

Understandably, there was outcry from the offset, with many branding the advert as being ‘tone deaf’. Those from the Black Lives Matter movement went one step further and said that this advert was trivializing their campaign, and those like them.

Though Pepsi did pull the advert from being aired in under 24 hours, the damage had already been done.

As a result, their brand’s appearance and reputation had been damaged, with many saying they would boycott the company from then onwards.

To avoid making a similar PR mistake, try and avoid trivializing political or social issues that are hot at the time you’re making them.

If you do want to address one, make sure you do your research, and involve people to represent those most affected by the issue you are trying to portray to make sure that you not accidentally doing something offensive that could damage your brands reputation in the long term.

Sending Unclear Messages To Customers

In 2013, Target experienced the second-largest retailer data breach on record at the time.

This is something that could’ve happened to anyone, but the way they responded during their PR crisis made it into a failure that they had to pay greatly for.

The first mistake they made was telling customers that PIN numbers had not been stolen during this breach, a statement which they later had to retract when it was found to be untrue.

The false news initially spread by the company meant that people began to feel distrustful of Target, and concerns for their security led to many consumers feeling weary to use the business going forwards.

According to Digital Authority Partners, one way to overcome this is to think about what you want the outcome of your PR strategy to be.

In this case, Target should have taken more consideration to think about limiting the damage this breach had on their reputation, instead of doing something that would momentarily comfort customers with catastrophic consequences.

Refusing To Accept Blame For Wrongdoing

In 2016, Mylan hiked the prices of their EpiPen by 400 percent. They are the only company who create this device, meaning they could have potentially been putting people’s lives at risk with this cost increase.

In the same period, Mylan also upped the price of seven additional products by more than 100 percent, and dozens of others by more than 20 percent.

They said that the price increases could be blamed on the mark-ups created by Obamacare and were more than fair, but many disagreed.

In fact, it got so bad that Hilary Clinton got involved, calling on Mylan to immediately reduce the prices. The American Medical Association did the same.

Though they did eventually agree to produce cheaper generic versions of the EpiPen, their initial refusal meant that the damage had already been done, and any efforts to save their PR were futile.

In fact, things have been so bad that the company are currently facing a number of lawsuits, have come under antitrust investigation and have had their stock fall by more than 70 percent.

To avoid this nightmare, you need to make sure that you do research and get involved with your target audience so that you can humanize those who receive your products and/or services.

This prevents you from looking at profit over the value of human life, and may prevent the outrage that has happened in this instance.

If you do make a mistake, you also need to respond to critics fairly and quickly to show your remorse and help minimize the impact of your mistake.

Mocking Minorities For Your Own Gain

HealthcareWeekly says that one of the top ways to make your PR strategies successful is to make sure that you aren’t promoting anything offensive that could harm your brand’s image online.

Most businesses are quite good at this, but one who fell short of this was Asda, the UK’s version of Walmart, when they decided to sell a ‘mental patient fancy dress costume’ for Halloween.

This came with a machete and blood stained jacket which fuels the stigma and discrimination attached to mental illness and, as you can imagine, people were not happy.

Their disgust was so extreme that customers took to social media to share their disgust, and the story soon spread.

Even though Asda took the outfit off sale as quickly as they could, the story had already been picked up by American news organizations like The Mighty, damaging their reputation not only in the UK but throughout the world, too.


As you can see, a lot of PR fails come from a good place, from businesses who want to try and repair the damage as soon as possible.

Doing that without evidence or proof to back up what you’re saying in press releases, however, isn’t effective, and can do more harm than good in the long term.

Though PR fails have definitely become more publicized in recent years, many of the traditional methods still reign true, and using them can help prevent you from making many of the mistakes we have mentioned in this article.