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Top six social media blunders of 2018

Top six social media blunders of 2018

By Salma Yehia

In a digital age of social media, the public has taken on the role of judge, jury and executioner. A person’s reputation now hinges upon a single social media status. Brands are constantly striving to gain attention. However, their attempts don’t always work out quite how they’d hoped. In no particular order, we’ve taken the time to compile a list of some of the biggest brand faux pas of 2018 thus far.

  1. Elon Musk

The CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, has once again found himself in hot water. In a comment made on Twitter, Musk called British caver Vern Unsworth a “pedo guy”. The tweet was later deleted, and Musk issued a public apology.

Elon Musk tweets

2. Alan Sugar

Lord Alan Sugar made a controversial tweet regarding the Senegalese World Cup football team. The tweet featured a photoshopped image of the team standing in front of counterfeit goods: “I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multitasking resourceful chaps”.

People immediately took to Twitter to express their horror, branding his tweet ‘racist’. Sugar initially responded with a series of tweets: “…it is meant to be funny…for god sake” and “I can’t see what I have to apologise for… you are OTT…it’s a bloody joke.” He later took down his tweet – “just been reading the reaction to my funny tweet about the guy on the beach in Marbella. Seems it has been interpreted in the wrong way as offensive by a few people. Frankly I can’t see that, I think it’s funny. But I will pull it down if you insist.”

Lord Alan Sugar tweets

 

In a matter of minutes since his previous tweet, Sugar took to Twitter to issue another, less cynical, apology.

3. Ryan Lochte

Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte accepted a 14-month sanction after he posted a picture on Instagram of him and his wife, receiving an intravenous drip.

According to the US Anti-Doping Agency, “intravenous infusions or injections in excess of 100 ml within a 12-hour period received in any other setting require an approved TUE. If a prohibited substance is administered intravenously or via injection, a TUE is necessary for this substance regardless of volume. Administration of IV infusions over the WADA volume limit, including dietary supplement and vitamin cocktails, provided to athletes for recuperation, recovery or lifestyle reasons is prohibited at all times without prior TUE approval. In situations of medical emergency, a retroactive TUE application pursuant to the International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions is acceptable.”

Ryan Lochte drip

4. Kim Kardashian

The social media star has been accused by fans as having photoshopped her Kimoji perfumes into old pictures. Kardashian fans first spotted the uncanny similarities between the two images when Kim posted it on her Instagram account. The reality star certainly wasn’t shy about recycling her old images. The original post featured Olay’s Regenerist Whip and appeared to be replaced by the Kimoji Cherry perfume.

The original post                    The photoshopped post

Kim Kardashian  Kim Kardashian advertising

5. Lorde

The singer shared a photo on Instagram with the caption: “And iiii will always love you”, which appeared to reference the 1992 Whitney Houston song. Lorde received a huge backlash soon after posting the image. It attracted such an adverse response because Houston drowned in a bathtub in a hotel suite at the Beverly Hilton hotel in California. Lorde took to Twitter to post an apology, saying: “I am SO sorry everyone this was a deeply poorly chosen quote about my love of bathing. I was meaning no disrespect and hadn’t put anything together because I’m dumb and it’s my day off. SORRY”.

lorde tweet

6. Snapchat

It’s no secret that the app has been in major decline in recent months; their latest stunt has made them even more unpopular amongst social media users. In March 2018, Snapchat ran an advert which appeared to reference Rihanna’s domestic violence experience. In 2009, Chris Brown was convicted of domestic violence against Rihanna. The advert for a game called “Would you Rather?” asked users if they would rather “slap Rihanna” or “punch Chris Brown”.

Snapchat pulled the advert, claiming it was “reviewed and approved in error, as it violates our advertising guidelines”, adding, “We are sorry that this happened”. Rihanna took to Instagram to respond to the advert: “Now SNAPCHAT I know you already know you ain’t my fav app out there! But I’m just trying to figure out what the point was with this mess! I’d love to call it ignorance, but I know you ain’t that dumb! You spent money to animate something that would intentionally bring shame to DV victims and made a joke of it!!! This isn’t about my personal feelings, cause I don’t have much of them…but all the women, children and men that have been victims of DV in the past and especially the ones who haven’t made it out yet….you let us down! Shame on you. Throw the whole app-ology away”.

With all these shocking blunders, we’ve made a list of our top tips to help you avoid these mistakes:

  1. Proofreading: Before posting anything, take a few moments to check your post for typing errors, particularly spelling and grammar mistakes.
  2. Factual inaccuracies: Fact check your post to eliminate any inaccuracies.
  3. Think holistically: Approach your post from different angles and consider whether it could be interpreted as being offensive.

If you want to know what we can do for your business, get in touch and make an enquiry today.

Fighting for the truth: preserving the reputation of national treasure, Sir Cliff Richard

Our experts have helped countless high-profile individuals and businesses salvage their hard-earned reputations online, offline or both. We deploy a suite of specialised personalised services to defuse crisis, mitigate further risks, take legal action if necessary and create a new, positive media narrative.

Read on to find out how our team of experts supported Sir Cliff Richard during his battle with the BBC following the live broadcast of a raid on his home in August 2014.

The Brief

To protect the reputation of Sir Cliff Richard and ensure the public – globally – were being told the true story of Sir Cliff’s innocence and his battle to clear his name. We deployed a multi-pronged approach using public relations techniques and legal assistance to defuse crisis, mitigate further risks, and create positive media narrative to manage Sir Cliff Richard’s reputation.

Our Strategy

To tell the public the true story of the so-called Cliff Richard Investigation – that Sir Cliff, following collusion between the BBC and South Yorkshire Police, became the victim of some media and police “sweetheart deal” which resulted in him being named as being under investigation during a live broadcast of a raid of his apartment.

  • Build a “fight-back” narrative to reassure the British public – and protect the reputation of Sir Cliff Richard
  • Ensure the message of an unprecedented situation was communicated clearly, accurately and compliant with current journalism law
  • Secure opportunities with key media outlets to communicate Sir Cliff’s side of the story
  • Support and manage the PR for the litigation against the BBC
  • Create a campaign that would have longevity and reduce the impact on Sir Cliff’s career

Our Method

After receiving notice of the police raid and the BBC’s attendance, a crisis team was formed at The PHA Group consisting initially of Chairman, Phil Hall, and former national newspaper journalist Neil McLeod.

From the outset, the strategy, via a public statement released on behalf of Sir Cliff, was to underline his shock at the BBC being on site as his home was raided – and to deny any wrong-doing. The integrated strategy which followed was designed to help the wider team get on the front foot and combined cut-through personal reputation commentary, insightful personal experience pieces and news agenda reaction to help push-back on false perceptions of Sir Cliff and underline the truth – that he is an innocent man fighting for his own rights.

The team worked in partnership with Partners from Michael Simkins LLP, Sir Cliff’s media lawyers, to ensure that events and details were reported accurately, and that falsehoods were corrected or stopped, or not given oxygen. Neil and Phil’s intimate knowledge of the media played a key part in their successful negotiations to ensure Sir Cliff was fairly represented and the record was set straight, with the strategy of being approachable and open with the media being important.

Former award-winning journalist and PHA consultant Phil Taylor was also brought into the account team alongside Phil Hall to coach Sir Cliff to handle tough media questioning he would inevitably face once the investigation was dropped.

Reactive news agenda placement was deployed, for example, in response to reports that Sir Cliff had been banned from the US, our team arranged pictures of him rehearsing in Nashville for his upcoming tour. These were printed by national media outlets. Allegations claiming Sir Cliff had poor health were also reported, so we launched into action, securing six images of Sir Cliff on page 3 in The Mail on Sunday, showing he was in good health and continuing his life as normal. Other media outlets soon followed suit.

Following the BBC story, a media environment was created where many publications seemed to believe it was “open season” to report on Sir Cliff’s life. Our team ensured accurate reporting by the Mail on Sunday and secured a Page One story showing he was fighting for his reputation and his rights following the unprecedented attack on his privacy.

Throughout the campaign, PHA received a plethora of story inquiries, almost on a weekly basis, which arose from false allegations – many of them outlandish – and working with the team to prevent publication or amend stories.

We also secured expert thought leadership consultancy in both the national and international press about privacy legislation, correct terms of events and spokesperson commentary to raise awareness among the public, media and Sir Cliff’s fan base. Our team arranged an exclusive interview with The Daily Mail, a key demographic and the largest circulation in the middle-market, as well as a personal one-to-one interview with close friend Gloria Hunniford on Loose Women. PHA also worked with Cliff and his music company to facilitate positive interviews – and manage messaging – around positive events for Sir Cliff, such as record releases and his sell-out birthday concerts.

Following confirmation of Sir Cliff’s legal action against the BBC, PHA provided support throughout the litigation, helping to engage with journalists and help provide messaging to correct misconceptions on the nature of the litigation and Sir Cliff’s reasons for going ahead with it.

The Result

We harnessed our strategic approach to rally Sir Cliff’s fan base and close friendship group; we reiterated his status as a national treasure in the media and public eye.

Our team established excellent relationships with journalists, ensuring over 150 articles with false allegations were either retracted, amended or we provided a comment, so we could successfully manage Sir Cliff’s reputation.

We established positive awareness and positively shifted assumptions about Sir Cliff’s reputation in the media.
He enjoyed a series of sell-out shows at The Royal Albert Hall and Greenwich, as well as releasing a Greatest Hits album that shot to number 1.

South Yorkshire Police settled with Sir Cliff Richard and admitted in a statement to the High Court that they acted unlawfully.

The BBC mounted a defence against Sir Cliff’s privacy action against him. In April 2018 the court heard how they used a helicopter to live broadcast the raid on Sir Cliff’s home after “strong-arming” South Yorkshire Police with information they had on the early stages of the investigation.

Judge, Mr Justice Mann, delivered his judgment on Wednesday 18 July awarding an initial £210,000 in damages.

We fostered and maintained positive media relations across the board with journalists against a background of challenging issues for them with regards to reporting and some misconceptions over press freedom in relation to the litigation.

Do you need an immediate short-term plan to deal with a problem or situation and a long-term communications strategy to rebuild your profile? Do you also need the help of experienced professionals with strong personal relationships, who can provide sound judgement? We offer all of this and more. Hire the best team to fight your corner. Contact us today to find out more.

Musk out of his depth in Thai cave PR fiasco

When controversial entrepreneur Elon Musk waded into the Thai cave rescue drama, some praised his good intentions – but far more branded him a shallow attention seeker.

The world exhaled a collective sigh of relief that all twelve Thai boys and their football coach had been rescued from the cave. But there was also an arched eyebrow pointing in the direction of the Tesla mogul.

Responding to the unfolding story, Musk commissioned a child-size submarine from his company SpaceX and live-Tweeted his support.

Unfortunately, the submarine was not fit for purpose and impractical for the rescue mission.

Although his intentions behind the mini-submarine were undoubtedly good, the misjudgement showed that there was a lack of proper research and knowledge of the situation.

Some sceptics branded his actions “unhelpful” and “self-aggrandizing” as it moved the spotlight away from the international rescue team of divers, including the Thai hero who lost his life.

After Musk left the submarine behind, one person Tweeted “this is the narcissistic billionaire equivalent of dumping a fridge in a public park.”

In short, it was seen by many as a callous PR stunt capitalising on a perilous situation in which a number children could die.

Not all the reaction to Musk’s offer of assistance were negative.

A spokesperson for the Thai Prime Minister diplomatically said he was “highly appreciative” and “very touched that Mr Musk had personally travelled to Chiang Rai Province to offer assistance, especially with his ingenious solutions.”

The president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, is an example of how to get involved in a disaster in a less contentious way.

He personally invited all the boys and their coach to the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday.

It was a feel-good gesture that showed FIFA was engaging with the situation without attempting to get directly involved in the disaster relief effort.

Sadly the boys were not fit enough to attend, but the gesture was still appreciated.

It is common for businesses or powerful individuals to offer to help when disaster strikes because they have the means to support.

But however well-intended the gesture, there is always a risk it will be viewed as having an ulterior motive. It’s essential to carefully consider how the action will be perceived.

After the Boxing Day tsunami, Coca-Cola converted its soft drink production in Sri Lanka to provide bottled water and then used its delivery trucks to distribute the bottles to victims.

Here, Coca-Cola used the operation chain and resources that it already had in that part of the world and turned its attention to the disaster at hand. A simple but incredibly important and effective gesture.

No one can say for sure that there were bad intentions behind Musk’s gesture of support, but the execution and delivery came across as crass. It was exacerbated by Musk’s stream-of-consciousness style delivery on Twitter.

The public and media response can turn on you if there is a hint of suspicion that your support is self-promoting – as Musk has found to his cost.

If you would like to know how PR could benefit your online reputation then please contact us today and speak to a member of our award-winning team.

Are you prepared for a PR crisis? Five steps to protect your reputation in 2015

When it comes to the business planning lists for 2015 drawn up by CEOs and Managing Directors, preparing a reputation management response probably does not feature.

Why should it? There are more pressing matters to deal with for the future growth and success of a company to concentrate on over the next 12 months.

Investment in talent and tech, development of ideas and contacts and the drive for new business may all be considered far more important, particularly as the country continues on the road of recovery.

Crisis management can represent the ugly side of running a business.


Click here to download our free Reputation Management Media Training eBook


With the gloss still gleaming on the New Year, business leaders can be forgiven for not wanting to darken their door with thoughts of how they could be attacked in the media over events taking place at the company.

Some may even believe that a media crisis cannot be planned for, that punches can be rolled with and when and having a strategy in place makes no difference.

The truth is, a jarring as it is, considering what you and your company would do in the face of a media storm is a business imperative.

The reason for this is a crisis can affect all of those planning elements which are referenced above.

If the answer to the question “Do we have a crisis plan?” is ‘no’, now is probably the time to address it.

If you don’t have a crisis plan, you can’t answer the most important question: What do we do, or who do we call, in a crisis?

While crises can differ, the truth is, most can be planned for in advance.

Crisis and reputation management is a Public Relations discipline which requires expertise and part of that expertise is the planning process.

With scrutiny of businesses at an all-time high, it is no good to simply believe a crisis won’t affect you.

No business runs completely smoothly. True, not all situations will lead to a media crisis, but it is worth being prepared.

To help prepare for 2015, below is a five-point checklist which we advise business leaders to consider:

1: What is on the horizon for 2015 which may trouble you in dealing with? Do you have any potential issues with employees, suppliers, products or business deals which you feel may escalate?

2: What interest has your company had from the press and media? You may have been fortunate enough to have been written about in the national press. This raises your profile and makes smaller matters more interesting. Even if you have not experience national coverage, your trade or regional publications might be interested in a negative story on you. Some of the most damaging stories can come from regional and trade publications as they are the ones closest to your business.

3: How would you communicate with other stakeholders? This includes your employees. Do you have a plan for internal communications in the event of a crisis?

4: Who you will call for external advice? Often, a third-eye is needed when forming a plan and managing crisis response. External consultants have the knowledge and expertise to deal with all manner of media crises, and their expertise comes with the ability to be more objective than a team which may be more emotionally tied up with the situation. They can also provide a barrier between you and the media.

5: Don’t be scared to ask for help in planning for crises. You may never need to activate the plan, but it is preferable to have one and not need it, rather than the other way round.

Five celebrities who must avoid a PR crisis in 2015

Fame is a transient construct. You can never get too comfortable in the world of showbiz. One minute you’re at the top of your game…a critically lauded album at Number one, a movie dominating the international film charts, a tour that’s filling stadia all over the world…but all it takes is one flippant, off the cuff remark, one poorly thought out comment to create a ripple effect that changes the tide of public perception.

In a split second, you can fall from hero to zero and the media turns from once ‘making you’ to now ‘breaking you’.


Click here for reputation management advice from leading crisis PR experts


We’re all human, we’re all guilty of making impulsive remarks and this is why the wisest of celebrities grasp the importance of retaining clued-up PR and crisis management advisors. So when their own actions engender a negative, critical response, their media advisors can tailor an appropriate mea culpa and create lots of new positive press to displace the negative that’s doing the rounds.

As we ease ourselves into 2015, I wanted to reflect on five high profile individuals whom I feel could benefit from a spot of attitude adjustment in the New Year. Individuals with real talent and something to offer who could win over a lot more people if they simply warrant a little more thought to the words they put out there.

Number one: Katherine Heigl

Image Courtesy of Sprifituel quotes, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Sprifituel quotes, flickr.com

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Queen of Thursday Night US TV Shonda Rhymes made a telling remark. Referring to the most watched drama on US network TV at the moment, she commented that “there are no Heigls” allowed on the set of Scandal. A reference to Katherine Heigl, who starred in Rhymes’ first TV smash, Grey’s Anatomy.

A landmark character back in the early days, speculation was rife when Heigl left the show. Was her refusal to throw her name in the hat for Emmy consideration interpreted as a negative indictment of the material she was given on the show? Or did she think she was too big for the small screen now her movie career was skyrocketing? Heigl’s negative image, however, escalated incrementally after a highly publicised interview with Vanity Fair, in which she talked about the movie Knocked Up.

Widely considered to be the film that propelled her to A-List status and an A-List salary, Heigl branded the movie “a little sexist”, claiming that the film “paints the women as shrews, as humourless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys”.

Heigl’s comments catalysed a media storm with people attacking her for seemingly biting the hand that feeds her. But, for every mistake, there is a potential for growth, and Heigl responded very graciously to the recent Rhymes interview, expressing her hope that she can change the acclaimed producer’s opinion of her.

Back on TV with new NBC espionage thriller State of Affairs, Heigl is clearly an intelligent, gifted and highly capable actor and producer. She just needs to choose her words more carefully so she doesn’t alienate future employers!

Number two: Shia LaBeouf

Image Courtesy of Nessa Silva, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Nessa Silva, flickr.com

I think people USED to think that Shia LaBeouf was pretty well adjusted for a former child star. And the Hollywood studios certainly approved his transition to leading man status when his movies began to open at number 1 at the box office. Lately though, the strange behaviour has proven a little hard to ignore. Stepping out in public with a bag over his head scribed with the words ‘I am not famous anymore’, prompted many to question what the hell was going on.

Then there were plagiarism accusations and most recently he interrupted a performance of Cabaret by smoking, shouting at the cast and patting star Alan Cumming on the backside! When the police were called, LaBeouf allegedly shouted, “F#!* you…This is f#!*#!*bulls#!* Do you know my life? Do you know who the f#!* I am?”.

Behaviour like this will catalyse m,. the big studios into thinking you’re a liability…and if you’re perceived as a liability in Hollywood, your job prospects will suffer. A bit of time out to recalibrate will certainly do LaBeouf the world of good right now.

Number three:  Reese Witherspoon

Image Courtesy of Attit Patel, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Attit Patel, flickr.com

I love Reese Witherspoon, I really do, she’s a fine actor, she has masterfully immortalised some cracking characters on the silver screen in the past and Gone Girl proved that she has a formidable talent for producing really compelling material. But…I can’t help but think that the quality and the integrity of the roles she has taken on in the last couple of years have been somewhat questionable.

The association that I’m making is that ever since she was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for getting belligerent with the arresting officer, the movies she has starred in seem to be less talked about. Questioning the authority of the police officer wasn’t a smart move, but asking him if he knew who she was!? A major celebrity faux-pas that comes across as insanely obnoxious. Reese apologised for her conduct but at the end of the day, a celebrity is a brand and the incident certainly damaged her brand perception. If celebs want to be top of the list when it comes to edgy, innovative and challenging scripts that are sent out by the studios, a little humility goes a long way!

Number four: Kanye West

Image Courtesy of Ashish Bhatnagar1, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Ashish Bhatnagar1, flickr.com

You’ve got to laugh at Kanye West, he comes up with some classic one-liners: “I am God’s vessel. But my greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live.” (VH1Storytellers); “I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph.” (Reuters); “And the thing is, for me to say I wasn’t a genius, I would just be lying to you and to myself.” (Jimmy Kimmel Live).

Up until fairly recently, Kanye has always been able to justify the egotism because of the quality of his music. But the combination of a heavily-flaunted marriage with Kim Kardashian and an ever-increasing arrogance and lack of modesty may have taken its toll on the fans’ patience. The last studio album, Yeezus, in my opinion, was a cracking album! Audacious, experimental and different. And the rave reviews are totally warranted. But, one can’t overlook the fact that the album did not perform as well commercially in comparison to his previous studio releases. The mixed reaction from the public is reflected in its sales. It debuted at the top of the Billboard but units shifted quickly waned and the sales figures marked his lowest solo opening week sales in the US.

Projected to sell half a million copies in its first week, sales fell below industry forecasts and label expectations. Sure, an alternative marketing approach, early leaks and internet piracy probably didn’t help but at the end of the day, to stay relevant, mainstream and popular, you need to keep the fans – the people that spend money on your brand – onside. And a good attitude really helps.

Number five: Amy Pascal

Image Courtesy of noticias seguridad, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of noticias seguridad, flickr.com

I conclude my list with Amy Pascal, the Sony Picture Entertainment bigwig at the centre of THAT email hack which dominated the international news agenda at the end of 2014.

The hack caused considerable humiliation, not only to Pascal, but to Sony as an entire company. E-mails between Pascal and producer Scott Rudin were peppered with critical comments levied at Angelina Jolie, with Rudin referring to her as “a minimally talented spoiled brat”.

The photo of Pascal encountering Jolie for the first time after those emails surfaced spoke volumes. Simply put, it was toe-curling, you could cut the tension with a knife. In another email exchange with Rudin, Pascal suggested that President Obama would especially enjoy the movies Django Unchained and The Butler. One can understand why news reports were quick to brand Pascal as “racially insensitive” and “racist”. My advice to Pascal moving forward?

Well, actress Lisa Kudrow has hit the nail on the head in my opinion: “Don’t write anything you don’t want broadcast”.