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The PR Naughty and Nice List of 2014

Posted by | Public Relations | No Comments

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s that time when we get to look back and remember those PR moments that made us shake our heads and pretend they didn’t really happen, and happily relive the ones that were handled so impeccably we just want to give them the slow clap they deserve.

We made a list and checked it twice. Here are the naughty and the nice of this year in PR.

The Naughty List

1. Uber


In November, it was discovered that Uber hired researchers to dig up data on reporters who have criticized the car company, leading to mistrust of Uber’s customer privacy policy. Additionally, there’s backlash from city taxis who feel that Uber has an unfair advantage as they are exempt from requirements, insurance, and taxes that taxis face. To top it off, Uber just fired several Chicago employees using the dreaded font Comic Sans. Despite all of this, Uber was still valued at $40 billion in December.

2. Devin James


PR specialist Devin James was hired by the city of Ferguson, after they made the mistake of hiring an all-white PR firm that was not doing a great job of understanding the community’s outrage. Once it was revealed that James was convicted of reckless homicide in 2006, and possibly fabricated part of his resume, this PR rep needed a PR rep.

3. NFL:


When TMZ posted the video of Ray Rice’s domestic violence dispute with his wife, the world knew that a PR mess was soon to come. Roger Goodell made the big mistake of being defensive in a situation where admitting fault in how the situation was initially handled would have made the NFL look much better. Adrian Peterson’s child abuse case and the petition against the Redskins’ name and mascot also added to the NFL scandal list this year. Fun fact: NFL ratings are still soaring regardless.

4. Secret Service:

white house

On September 19th, a gun-wielding Iraq war veteran hopped the White House fence and made it deep inside the building, apparently passing “five rings of security.” Also, three days prior, an armed security contractor was allowed on an elevator with Obama, which led to questions of how effectively the Secret Service is protecting the president. The full extent of the breach wasn’t accurately presented to the media, leading to an overall distrust of the Secret Service, and the resignation of director Julia Pierson.

5. Target:


Target, Home Depot, Kmart, Michael’s, Dairy Queen, Staples, and most recently, Sony, were victims of data hacks this year. Target’s breach stands out the most for a few reasons. They waited too long to address customers (a week) and they were hacked during a holiday season, heightening the public backlash. If you were affected by any data breaches this year, here’s an AP guide on what to do:

The Nice List

1. Everytown for Gun Safety:


The country’s largest gun prevention organization claimed victory in Washington State this year by closing the background check initiative, I-594, by popular vote. Washington joins California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington D.C., that also require universal background checks for all firearms. Everytown for Gun Safety even won management of the already-existing Facebook page of the same name. If you can control social media, that’s the biggest PR victory of all.

2. Honda:


Honda announced that it would cut senior executives’ pay in response to the recalls of its Fit and Vezel cars, and due to the global air-bag crisis. CEO Takanobu Ito took a 20 percent pay cut for three months, and Honda Chairman Fumihiko Ike, as well as 11 other directors, reduced their salary by 10 percent. If good performance typically leads to a raise, it’s only understandable that executives get pay cuts for selling defective cars that have led to injuries and deaths. Good job for doing the right thing here, Honda.

3. Market Basket:

market basket

Cousins Arthur S. and Arthur T. Demoulas have long feuded over the leadership and ownership of Market Basket. After revered CEO, Arthur T., was ousted from the position by Arthur S., employees rallied in picket lines and on social media for him to get his position back. Pay your employees well, provide them with pensions, and learn their names and they’ll have your back when you get fired by your cousin. Even though Arthur T. won the position, Arthur S. still got an exorbitant amount of money, so really, they both won in the end.

4. Dan Gilbert:


Dan Gilbert, best known as owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, owns 60 major downtown buildings in struggling Detroit. Investing and rebuilding in the previously bankrupt city presented him as a hero in the media this year, which was a major PR win for him. Also, let’s be real. He brought Lebron back to Ohio, which many could argue makes him a hero in an even bigger way.

5. Ice Bucket Challenge:


All of the “nice” PR moments listed above can easily be argued for belonging on the “naughty” list as well, especially the Ice Bucket Challenge. Sure the movement may seem a little narcissistic, and perhaps it doesn’t really teach about ALS, but it’s branded itself in a way so that everyone, even my computer-less Grandma, knows what it is. Because of how it blew up, ALS raised over $100 million, a 3,500% increase over previous years. Celebrities and politicians participated, and the Ice Bucket Challenge became a household phrase. What more could the founders of a charitable movement want? Major PR win.



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