Infamous American showman PT Barnum once said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” It’s a commonly held PR belief. But, is it true? In today’s fast-paced world of digital marketing, sometimes brands can find themselves in hot water when striving to always have something to say. As we enter the fifth month of 2023, let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest PR fails that have already unfolded this year.
Top PR Fails of 2023
International Women’s Day 2023
This has become a busy day in marketing calendars. In recent years a surprising Twitter hero has emerged to shed light in a crowded space of aspirational messages and spotlights. The Gender Pay Gap Bot, created by Francessca Lawson and her business partner Ali Fensome has been fearlessly calling out companies on their pay gaps.
Emirates airlines found themselves in the limelight following one of their contributions to International Women’s Day this year. Their campaign celebrated women in entertainment, highlighting the female-led films and tv shows available to watch on their in-flight entertainment systems. The Gender Pay Gap Bot was quick to retweet, revealing a pay gap of 34.2%, which was 27.5% points wider than the previous year. In a world where information is readily available, this was an instant PR fail, with the company quickly being shown up on a global stage.
AI Models For Diversity
Popular denim brand Levi’s. put their foot in it with the announcement of a collaboration with Lalaland.ai. The initial press release stated the brand planned to build customised AI models to “supplement and increase the number and diversity of our models for our products in a sustainable way.” This, unsurprisingly, led to outcry online. Critics called the initiative problematic and lazy, pointing out that it would be better to just hire diverse models to showcase the clothes.
Levi’s were quick to respond in a statement clarifying that they did not see AI as the sole solution to tackling diversity and inclusion. They did however maintain that it would be an important part of the solution. AI is a hot topic at the moment, with many people unsure of its real life consequences. This debacle certainly did little to help instil trust in the new technology. Levi’s had to resort to crisis management to get their message back on track.
Greenwashing For Airlines
Greenwashing has become a buzzword of late, with many brands accused of putting a green spin on campaigns. Vague messaging and deceptive use of topical language has led to a lack of trust. Airline Lufthansa was the latest to fall afoul of these claims, following the introduction of their new fare pricing options. Customers concerned about their carbon footprint have been offered the ‘Green Fare’, allowing them to offset 100% of their travel. At a cost. Climate activists have cast doubt over whether their offsetting claims were accurate. Consumers are growing wise to corporate greenwashing tactics and Lufthansa’s new pricier fare scheme has drawn the wrong kind of attention from the media. Lufthansa went on to release an advert claiming to protect the world with its green policies. The ad was banned by the Advertising Standards Agency and brought a fresh wave of negative PR to Lufthansa’s door.
Minimise the Risk of a PR Fail
These PR fails may not be enough to destabilise the mammoth brands we’ve looked at here. But how much time and resources have been tied up in crisis management mode? When building your brand, you want every interaction with your customers to be positive. This includes how you are perceived in the media. Working with a PR agency allows you to concentrate on what you do best, running your business and providing excellent service to your customers. Let the PR experts take the lead on how the media interacts with your brand. They can ensure that positive opportunities are brought to you to help you push your brand and image forward.
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