Biggest PR Disasters of 2014

Biggest PR Disasters of 2014

It’s been a wild year in PR. From Kim K’s shrewd Break the Internet campaign to the seemingly endless scandals that plague Uber, the list of notable PR dos and don’t’s made headline news all year long. Speaking of PR don’t’s, here’s MUIPR’s list of the biggest PR disasters of 2014:


Ray Rice/NFL

Ray and Janay Rice Picture


When the Ray Rice elevator video hit the Internet, most of us were thinking that things couldn’t possibly get worse for Ray Rice. In fact, things got better for Ray Rice. When the news about the NFL’s mishandling of the incident went public, the blame shifted to the NFL, and the story turned on its head. It was no longer about a domestic incident but about an organizational-wide leadership and communications collapse. Although ratings didn’t drop and football remains the most popular sport in the United States, the scandal put a mark on the organization that’s unlikely to fade anytime soon.


Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby Photo


It wasn’t the video of a comedian calling out Bill Cosby on rape allegations that sent this story spiraling out of control: it was a meme. When a well-meaning but out of touch community manager for Bill Cosby’s camp asked Cosby’s fans to generate their own memes about Bill Cosby, the result was disastrous. Hundreds of Twitter users generated memes depicting a photo of Cosby along with a caption referring to rape. To make things worse, Cosby remained silent while the public had its way with his reputation. If that wasn’t bad enough, Cosby allowed his lawyer to make statements to the public, all of which painted the alleged victims as liars. That tactic might work in the courtroom but not in the court of public opinion.



Travis Kalanick Picture

Washington Post

We could do a ten-page feature on Uber, but we’ll try to break it down in a few sentences. Uber exec Emil Michael was caught on tape discussing the possibility of going after journalists who wrote negative stories about Uber. Later in the year, an Uber driver was accused of raping a female passenger. In late 2014, the city of Portland sued Uber to halt all operations due to compliance issues. Finally, Uber sent out a tweet during the recent hostage crisis in Sydney. The tweet offered cab rides to citizens attempting to flee the city, but Uber raised the fare to $100 for the occasion. Hopefully, the Sydney-tweet scandal is Uber’s last of the year. Of course, it’s only mid-December, and Uber could still strike again by year’s end.


What was the biggest PR disaster of 2014, in your opinion? Let’s chat in the comments, or you can find me on Twitter @nataliepettito

Natalie Petitto

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