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Public relations professionals are in charge of ensuring that companies and individuals maintain a positive image. While many of these people do their job exceptionally well, there have been utter disasters in the past decade. Anyone in the profession would do well to look at these miserable failures as shining examples of what not to do.

1.Philip Morris 2001

Phillip Morris

Did you know that smoking deaths can have a positive effect? Neither did we. In 2001, tobacco giant Philip Morris released a study that was conducted in the Czech Republic. The study reported that the death of smokers had positive financial effects on the country’s government. Philip Morris stated that the country had saved up to $30 million as a result of the early deaths of smokers. Not only did the company face a huge backlash due to the report, but subsequent studies in other countries were canceled.

2.Ambercrombie & Fitch 2002

A&F has been in the news recently. It’s owner has said that he does not want his brand on “fat” people. This in response to complaints that average-sized people are unable to find anything that fits in the store. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that A&F has been in the news. As early as 2002, the clothing company released T-shirts depicting caricatures of Asians. Why? Because they thought Asians would love them. Just a month later, the company was the butt of protests and boycotts. It seems that thong underwear for 10-year olds didn’t quite catch on with parents.

3.Super Bowl 2004

Do you remember nipplegate? If so, you aren’t alone. Millions of people tuned in to the Super Bowl’s halftime show in 2004, only to be treated to Janet Jackson’s now infamous wardrobe malfunction. CBS received a $550,000 fine from the FCC and nearly just as many complaints from heated viewers. Thanks to Ms. Jackson’s overexposure, there are now tape delays in live broadcasts and regulations have been placed on future halftime shows.

4.The News Corp 2006

You know O.J. Simpson. He’s the man who may or may not have killed his wife. When O.J. wrote “If I Did It,” publishers wouldn’t touch it, except Judith Regan. Not only was the book published, but a two-part interview with the infamous football player was scheduled. Both the publisher and Fox News, the interview’s broadcaster, are owned by NewsCorp. Suffice it to say that the public was less than enthused about either project and made their condemnation known. Regan was quickly fired, the publishing deal was tossed, and the interview cancelled.

JetBlue in Goose Bay

5.JetBlue 2007

If you’re thinking of flying in the future, you may want to pass by JetBlue, no matter how cheaply you can get a ticket. In 2007, New York experienced a frightening ice storm. Planes at JFK were delayed for what seemed like forever. JetBlue had nine flights that were delayed for 11 hours each. You can’t expect JetBlue to control the weather, but you can expect them to allow their passengers to deplane. Sadly for those passengers, they were not permitted to deplane and were, instead, held virtual prisoners on the planes for the entire time. Bad move for JetBlue.

Public relations, when handled right, can make a company a stand out. When handled wrong, they can sink a company’s ship quicker than anything. As a professional in the field, make sure you research the disastrous mistakes that have been made; you’ll learn what not to do.

Journalist Brett Harris earned his degree from one of the Top 25 Smart Choice Schools for Online Communication and Public Relations Degrees

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