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PR Horror Stories: Halloween Special

Blog post   •   Oct 31, 2014 08:00 GMT

As it's Halloween, we've huddled together and brewed a concoction of PR Horror stories so toxic you'll shake and sweat after consumption.

Now we know that great public relations is simple, but not easy. However, these stories highlight some...well...bad and ugly real life communications decisions.

Happy Halloween, proceed with caution!


Nominated by Magnus Snoer, Marketing Manager - Denmark

The New York City Police Department asked people to share stories and images about their encounters with the police in the Big Apple using the hashtag #MyNYPD on Twitter. Why the NYPD were unable to foresee that it would turn out to be a social media disaster is a mystery that their best detectives are probably still working on.

Lesson learned: If a lot of your clients involuntarily use your services, do not encourage people to share their experiences with you in public.


Could only be Made in Mayfair: an Ebola themed Halloween party

Nominated by Mutesa Sithole, Content Marketing Manager - International

'Yes, you read correctly! This is totally insensitive, who cares if they're raising money for charity as part of the event. I'm guessing (hoping) that those involved are not foolish enough to think it's funny, therefore it's a stunt. They changed the name of the event and apologised on Tuesday afternoon, in the meantime, they've attracted all the publicity they need to fill the party'.


'My Ultimate Bucket List', Malaysia Airlines

Nominated by Emilia Villegas, Customer Success Manager

'After the disasters it has suffered this year...really?! A promotional campaign may have been a good idea, but in light of recent events just don't call it a bucket list...that's pretty basic!'


Hong Kong, run for your lives!

Nominated by Julia Tan, Marketing Communications Manager - Asia

Over zealous runners suffered injuries dashing for their lives during a Zombie themed marathon in Hong Kong. So what did the organisers do on social media? Ran for their lives too by hiding negative comments on Facebook, school kid error.

'This was an epic failure for three reasons' says Julia:

  • Bad PR on social media (Hiding and deleting of comments on Facebook)
  • It happened in the midst of Hong Kong's political crisis, Occupy Central
  • A lack of volunteers (55% dropout rate) at the event meant it couldn't run smoothly as planned.



Nominated by Laura McLean, Communications Executive

'PR executive sends a racist tweet before taking an international flight, when she lands she has lost her job and the hashtag is trending on Twitter. We're talking about a Comms Director here...!'

US Airways and the most graphic brand tweet, ever

Nominated by Magnus Snoer, Marketing Manager - Denmark

'American Airlines responds to a customer complaint on Twitter by replying with a very graphic, NSFW (not safe for work) image. The explanation on why it happened seems plausible, but still...'


Paddy Power, 'Money back if he walks' Pistorius campaign

Nominated by Adam Cranfield, Head of Marketing - International

'My PR Horror of the year was Paddy Power's shockingly offensive Oscar Pistorius "Money back if he walks" ad. The betting firm has built its reputation on consistently crossing the line of good taste, but they surely went too far with this one, setting a new British record for complaints and being ordered by the ASA to withdraw the ad. Paddy Power was unrepentant, issuing the comment "In your face KFC!", in reference to beating the previous record'.


Jules Bianchi crash used by DHL to collect Facebook 'likes'

Nominated by Nick Osborn, Head of Agency Partnerships

Following the serious F1 crash which left Jules Bianchi fighting for his life, DHL appeared to claim that by 'liking' their Facebook page you'd be sending Jules your best wishes for a speedy recovery!??

Completely misguided campaign, using a tragedy to boost social 'likes'. The only way the campaign could have been worse is if they'd made some comment about delivering him back safely if they reached a certain amount. Bad taste!'


And finally, what about this promo combining Bikram Yoga and 9/11?!

Nominated by Heather Sophia Athié, Account Director


Do you think all of these are true PR horror stories? Do you have some you'd like to share? Drop a comment in the box below.

P.s. Don't miss out on our next social, a night of Pizza and PR...

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