Biggest PR Disasters of 2010

Australia's biggest PR Disasters for 2010
According to PR analyst and author Gerry McCusker, the brains behind, it’s official… drumroll please!  The Qantas A380 engine blast has been named the worst Australian PR disaster of 2010.

The scandal surrounding The Canberra Raiders and one of their player’s ‘relationship’ with a dog, the Commonwealth Bank’s premium interest rate hike and the David Jones sexual  assault case were just some of the diverse incidents to make the year’s definitive list of PR gaffes.

Celebrities Stephanie Rice, Matthew Newton and Lara Bingle also hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in 2010.  The awards highlight the worst examples of business, celebrity, government, media and sports gaffes. For the first time, the results have included PR disasters in both traditional and online media, including social media spaces, showing the increasing prominence of this channel as a legitimate platform for the dissemination of information.

According to Gerry McCusker and his partner on this project, Bree Dwyer from online and social media monitoring agency Cyber Chatter, in order to qualify as a PR disaster, the incident must catalyse sustained, negative media coverage for the brand, business or person at the centre of the story.

So, without further ado, Australia’s Top 10 PR Disasters for 2010 were in descending order (meaning the biggest disaster first):

1. Qantas – A380 fleet consecutive engine issues and passenger delays
2. Commonwealth Bank ‐ premium interest rate hikes
3. Labor Party ‐ corporate backlash against the proposed ‘super tax’
4. Melbourne Storm ‐ salary cap scandal
5. Stephanie Rice ‐ homophobic comments posted via Twitter
6. Canberra Raiders ‐ Joel Monaghan’s bad taste photo with a dog
7. Virgin Blue – reservations and check‐in system crash
8. Matthew Newton ‐ after alleged assault of then partner Rachel Taylor in Italy
9. David Jones – CEO sexual assault scandal
10. Lara Bingle ‐ media relations following split with Michael Clark

One can’t help thinking that if the poll for this year had already begun, that the photo scandal involving St Kilda players and indecent photographs taken on tour and then posted onto the internet would certainly have rated highly already.  And one wonders about the glaring omission of Queensland Minister for Health Paul Lucas’ mis-handling of the Queensland health workers’ pay fiasco – surprising that this did not rate a mention?

Certainly in the case of Qantas and Virgin Blue, there are definitely lessons here in terms of maintaining core standards of business efficiency, core business operations and risk management; while others on the list merely demonstrate the power of a few poorly-chosen words, tweeted in haste, with dire and career-long consequences.

It is worth taking the time, when contemplating any public expression even of private opinions, that your remarks have an audience far wider than you might first imagine and that once you press ‘send’, there is no way to snatch back those thoughts best kept to yourself.  In other words, think before you tweet.

Publicity QueenYours in PR



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Libby Collett, Sally Romano. Sally Romano said: Want to know what the biggest PR Disasters of 2010 were? Click here […]

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