Four Lesson’s from This Week’s PR Blunders

The last 10 days have been filled with some of the biggest PR blunders of 2017…thus far. Pepsi began with what was sure to be the biggest ad campaign mistake of the year and then was promptly followed by and possibly outdone by United Airlines. Pepsi released what many called a “tone deaf” ad featuring Kendall Jenner that made light of recent protests resembling Black Lives Matters and Women’s marches across the country. The ad was pulled from airwaves in less than 24 hours. Jenner removed all traces of Pepsi from her social media feeds in the same time. Pepsi apologized and despite a few memes across Facebook and Instagram, the uproar died down.

On Monday, video appeared on Twitter of a man being dragged off a United Airlines flight. The CEO released a poorly worded statement blaming the victim for the incident which only made the situation worse. Twitter users quickly decided to edit the response. It took 2 days, thousands of video shares, memes, and their stock plummeting almost 1 billion dollars for the airline to release a proper apology accepting blame for the situation that occurred.









It’s hard to believe that any brand could have a bigger disaster than Pepsi and United, but it’s still early in the year. Here are 4 lessons that can be learned from Pepsi and United.

  1. Having a Diverse Creative Team is Critical to Success

Pepsi’s horrible attempt to be culturally relevant reminds us that it is critical to have a diverse creative team. Diversity on creative teams should show up through age, ethnicity, race, gender, education and experience. Diverse teams have been proven to produce better creative and better solutions to business problems. Make sure a diverse group is represented throughout the entire creative process from concept development until final review. A diverse team would have been able to catch the many problematic images of the Pepsi ad.

  1. Carefully Vet What Social Issues to Speak On Before You Do

There are a thousand and one social issues that companies can choose to get involved in. Companies can speak out on social issues as simple as education or as complicated as global warming and gay marriage. The key is to vet what social issue to speak on. This is done by evaluating your audience and evaluating the proper way to get involved. When it comes to more complicated social issues, your team should ensure your response and involvement is genuine and will be viewed that way by consumers. You should also know that getting involved in social issues is not a one off thing for profits. You have to show commitment to the cause and consumers will take notice.

  1. The Customer is Always Right….Always! 

Yes, sometimes the customer is wrong, but you never tell them that. Your business policy should be that the customer is always right because you want to keep their business. The cost of fixing a small issue is less than the cost of losing one or more customers over an issue. Customers want to know they’re valued beyond their dollar. Companies can show this by not bashing customers publicly and always putting people before profits. Companies that do that have the greatest loyalty and high revenues.

  1. Simply Apologize and Make It Better!

When your customers are upset, the easiest thing to do is simply apologize and promise to make it right. Take the blame and list steps on how you will improve. That seems simple correct? United didn’t think so. Corporations have to be human sometimes and the most important time is when a big mistake has been made. Be vulnerable and admit and accept fault. Your customers will stand by you if you do this. If you finger point and don’t own up, they will turn against you. Just ask United how many people cut up their loyalty cards this week.

We will see what the rest of 2017 has in store for us. Hopefully, companies are on watch for possible mistakes. Let us know what other lessons you learned from the blunders this week. Post in the comments section below.


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