Marketing

The biggest PR blunders of 2015 revealed

Broede Carmody /

 

Volkswagen’s fake emissions scandal is the worst public relations blunder of 2015, according to the PR industry’s unofficial watchdog.

Joe Hockey’s comment that people should “get a good job” if they want to crack into the property market is the second worst PR scandal of the year, according to author and PR analyst Gerry McCusker.

 

Read more: 11 ways to stop an online issue turning into a PR disaster

 

Meanwhile, Belle Gibson’s claims of beating cancer through healthy eating came in at number three on this year’s PR disaster list, followed closely by the Bronwyn Bishop helicopter saga and Australian Border Force claiming it would be stopping citizens on the street to check their passports.

Each of the five PR blunders received thousands of mentions in the media over a significant period of time, but Volkswagen managed to top the list because it received more than 12,000 individual pieces of media coverage.

In comparison, Joe Hockey’s comments about getting a job resulted in just over 7000 mentions in the media.

Belle Gibson’s claims of curing her own cancer, meanwhile, were mentioned around 6700 times.

Speaking to SmartCompany this morning, McCusker, who has been running the Australian PR Disaster Awards for 10 years now, says Volkswagen topped this year’s list because the company publicly damaged the image it tried to create for itself for so long.

“When brands, celebrities or corporations purport or say one thing but act in another way, that’s when you get the biggest breach of trust,” McCusker says.

As for what businesses can learn from this year’s biggest PR disasters, McCusker says it’s all about staying in touch with your audience.

“You have to monitor not just what people are saying, but you have to monitor the sentiment,” he says.

“It’s just like your relationships in real life. You have to understand how the other person in the relationship fells.

“The common fault here is not being in touch with how people feel. It’s not difficult to do these days, but culturally you have to want to do it and want to listen.”

 

Here are 2015’s top PR disasters, according to McCusker:

 

1. Volkswagen’s fake emissions scandal

2. Joe Hockey’s “get a good job” comment

3. Belle Gibson’s claims of curing cancer and giving money to charity

4. Bronwyn Bishop’s helicopter ride

5. Australian Border Force’s media release

 

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Broede Carmody

Broede Carmody is a former senior SmartCompany reporter. Before this, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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