As someone who works in the biz, whenever I see negative media coverage for any company or individual, I immediately feel sympathy for the PR team. Whoever they are, wherever they are, in that moment they are undoubtedly stressed and panicked trying to figure out a way to reverse the damage and positively spin the negativity. They say all publicity is good publicity, but that only goes so far when you’re in the midst of a full-blown PR crisis.
There never seems to be a shortage of PR nightmares, and below are three recent crises that really made me think “ouch.”
When 170,000 internal e-mails were hacked and released to the public, the world got a behind the scenes look at the operations of Sony Entertainment. As it turns out, the company’s top-tier executives are pretty petty, dealing out harsh words left and right for some of the industry’s most successful stars, from Angelina Jolie and Seth Rogen to powerhouse directors David Fincher David O. Russell. The leak had a serious impact on the company, resulting in relentless bad PR and embarrassment, not to mention the dismissal of chief of Sony Pictures Amy Pascal.
Volkswagen has long been known as one of the most popular automobile brands in the world, but last month the company was hit with the worst crisis in its history when the US Environmental Protection Agency accused it of using a “defeat device” to game emissions testing and skirt around air pollution regulations. Referred to by the company’s chairman as “a moral and political disaster,” Volkswagen is desperately trying to get ahead of the scandal, swiftly firing and replacing its CEO, but sales and stock nonetheless continue to drop. Stay tuned for how this one pans out.
Had to save the best (or worst) for last…the Ashley Madison leak revealed the identities of tens of millions of Americans who used the site to cheat on their spouses. Not only was this a PR disaster for those in charge of the company, it also ruined the lives of millions of people who were exposed for their infidelities. From your average Joe Schmo to celebrities and congressmen, it seemed no one was safe from the leak. Ultimately, the moral of the story is: don’t cheat unless you wouldn’t mind getting caught.