Inside the Profession

Friday Five: Brands Under Fire

As public relations professionals, we are responsible for a daily balancing act of brainstorming creative campaigns and protecting our brand’s fragile reputation from campaigns gone wrong. It can take only one small, well-intended incident to make headline news for a gaffe. The dominance of social media only exacerbates the problem.

Friday Five LogoIn this week’s Friday Five – an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and commentary – we pinpoint five brands that have come under fire for ill-advised ideas or mistakes. We’ll look at a poorly named contest by Malaysia Airlines, a promotion gone wrong by 20th Century Fox, a technological mistake by Pinterest and Apple’s security response following the celebrity photo leak. We’ll also share the New York Police Department’s move to make its officers social media literate.

Malaysia Airlines Asked for Travelers’ ‘Bucket Lists’ in Ill-Advised Contest (TIME Magazine)

At a time when the world is still discussing the tragic circumstances surrounding two Malaysia Airlines flights – MH17 and MH370 – the airline is understandably trying to find a way to win back customers. Their recent campaign isn’t unexpected: the airline is offering free tickets and iPads. However, the name of the campaign left everyone asking, “What were they thinking?”

The “My Ultimate Bucket List” campaign asked contestants to explain, “What and where would you like to tick off on your bucket list?” If you’re unfamiliar with the term bucket list, it refers to things you want to accomplish before you “kick the bucket.” Instead of making potential customers forget about the two catastrophic flights and lives lost, Malaysia Airlines reminded everyone of the potential dangers of air travel.

While the airline has since pulled the campaign, you can read more about it and similar situations via the full article.

Fox laments ‘unfortunate timing’ of promo for ‘Headless Day’ (Ragan’s PR Daily)

Creative ideas and campaigns can have far-reaching effects and benefits for brands. However, when launching an imaginative campaign, brands must be aware of news items that may impact the message. It was obvious that 20th Century Fox was unaware of the beheading U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff when it began its promotion of its television series “Sleepy Hollow.”

The TV network sent out this pitch with memes as the news of Sotloff hit:

“Heads will roll as sleepyheads celebrate Headless Day today, September 2. On this National Beheading Day, viewers everywhere can share in the fun as fans prepare for the release of Sleepy Hollow: Season One on Digital HD now and arriving on Blu-ray and DVD September 16.We hope you like them and are able to share them with your readers! If you share via your social media platforms, please tag them with #HeadlessDay!”

Read more from author Kevin Allen, including the apology released by the Sleepy Hollow public relations team, on PR Daily.

Pinterest Accidentally Congratulates Single Women on Getting Married (New York Magazine)

With the information collected from your Google searches, online shopping and social media accounts, sites can sometimes figure out your life-altering news before it is public knowledge. Pinterest is the latest site to try (and fail) to predict such news. According to Jessica Roy of New York Magazine, the social media site emailed users to congratulate them on their impending nuptials but missed the mark.

Pinterest sent the following explanation and humorous apology:

“Every week, we email collections of category-specific pins and boards to pinners we hope will be interested in them. Unfortunately, one of these recent emails suggested that pinners were actually getting married, rather than just potentially interested in wedding-related content. We’re sorry we came off like an overbearing mother who is always asking when you’ll find a nice boy or girl.”

Do you think Pinterest handled the situation well? Read the full article and let us know in the comments section.

Tim Cook Says Apple to Add Security Alerts for iCloud Users (Wall Street Journal)

Following the release of several nude photos of celebrities on the Internet, Apple is denying that its security procedures allowed for the substantial leak. According to Tim Cook, Apple CEO, none of the Apple IDs and passwords leaked from the company’s servers. Instead of playing the blame game, however, Cook opted to announce additional security procedures to ensure user safety.

Daisuke Wakabayashi of the Wall Street Journal explained the new procedures, “To make such leaks less likely, Mr. Cook said Apple will alert users via email and push notifications when someone tries to change an account password, restore iCloud data to a new device, or when a device logs into an account for the first time. Until now, users got an email when someone tried to change a password or log in for the first time from an unknown Apple device; there were no notifications for restoring iCloud data.”

Read the full article, including a timeline and implementation strategy, via the Wall Street Journal.

NYPD Is Sending Its Officers to Twitter Class (Mashable)

In the “little late but necessary” category, the New York Police Department is now requiring its officers to take lessons in social media use. Mashable contributor Kari Paul explains one reason why this is necessary:

“In the process, the department has found itself at the center of a series of Internet snafus. In April, an NYPD social media campaign backfired after its official Twitter account asked people to share photos of themselves with members of the police force using the hashtag #myNYPD. Twitter users quickly flooded the campaign with photos of alleged police brutality and ironic uses of the #myNYPD hashtag.”

See other examples of NYPD social media snafus via Mashable.

Rosanne Mottola is public relations manager for the Public Relations Society of America.

About the author

Rosanne Mottola, APR

Rosanne Mottola, APR, is public relations manager for the Public Relations Society of America. She is an adjunct professor of public relations at St. John’s University, Staten Island. Mottola obtained a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from New York University in 2010. You can connect with her on Twitter @RoeMoPR or on LinkedIn.

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