PRoTips: The Elements of a #PRFail

Here are three things we hope you clients don't do.

If you are a friend of the PRNewserverse, or even if you just visit from time-to-time, you know we delve into the #PRFail. We have a certain panache for delivering this news because well, it happens… frequently.

Occasionally, we are asked “What made that a PR Fail” or “I saw this story but unsure if this is a PR Fail,” so this post is for you. There are unique components that make up these colossal digital or traditional PR fart-and-fall-down moments, so we’d love to share them with you.

1. Talking Point Turmoil.

Source: MLB

For the most part, clients are trained to handle the dreaded “bait and switch” questions from the media. PR professionals teach the fine art of bridging and flagging so clients won’t get tripped up and divulge something that wasn’t supposed to be offered on the record.

However, there are those clients or spokespeople who think they live above the fray and won’t get tripped up. And so, they keep it real… and get really blasted by social media or their audiences.

Earlier this month, you may remember MLB manager Dusty Baker who went all apologist on his former player and spouse abuser Aroldis Chapman. Victim blaming in a domestic abuse case is never a good idea. Stick to the script and if you want to ad-lib, please don’t be stupid or believe your own press.

America will be watching.

2. Image Issues. 

kylie-jennerIt’s been said that security protects a person’s body, PR protects that person’s reputation. Sometimes, said person either ignores that protection (aka. counsel, advice, direction) or feels they are above it.

The Kardashians are a perfect example of this. They have publicists but don’t seem to use them.

One such image issue was Kylie Jenner’s recent Interview cover.

Never mind there are qualified models who are paraplegics, but to title the article “The Surreal Life” and then put her behind a wheelchair was quite the slap to the disabled community.

If she had a real PR person around to let her know about protecting her image, she may have heard that counsel. Instead, they were out retrieving her kale shake with sprouts.

3. Client Controversies. 

We all have dream clients. You know, the ones who value counsel, understand that they pay you to be the expert, and allow you to lead when dancing with the media. And then there are those clients that prefer you work for your money and play catch-up with their foibles.


Just in time for the holidays, Nordstrom was selling a seasonable sweater featuring a menorah and a Star of David because Hanukkah is a nice thing. One problem: Someone on the design team thought “Hanukkah J.A.P.” would be welcomed in the community. Oh, that means “Jewish American Princess.”

This offensive embroidery was trolled in a big way on social media, leading the fancy retailer to remove it from their website and offer the obligatory apology.

There are many other aspects to a PR Fail but it’s clear, if someone or some brand goes beyond the grasp of proven best practices, they are going to end up on social media being ridiculed, laughed at, or worse, ignored.