Internet Social Media

How 3 Companies Turned Social Media PR Disasters Into Happy Endings

Angela Randall 17-04-2012

pr campaign disastersThe Internet makes it so easy for customers to get the word out about great businesses they’ve found and other things they really like. Conversely, it’s also quick to promote and pass around evidence of awful customer service. If you ever make a huge PR blunder, even in your bricks-and-mortar business or something more personal in nature, you can be sure someone will get proof of it online in no time.


In the end, since you can pretty much guarantee your worst nightmare of a PR disaster will travel like wildfire online, it all comes down to what you do about it next. The same social media tools which are passing around your most embarrassing moment are available to you, so you need to use them well – and quickly!

Here’s a few tales of social media PR Your Guide To Social Media Marketing Right now, there is an onslaught of both people and companies turning to social media outlets. The competition is fierce, and no company can waste time or money doing it wrong. Read More disasters with happy endings which you can learn from and hope to emulate if the need ever arises.

The Avenger Controller & Ocean Marketing

The makers of the Avenger Controller had absolutely no idea what they were getting into when they hired Paul Christoforo from Ocean Marketing to promote their product and manage their PR. The damage that Paul nearly did for their business was nothing short of horrifying.

After Paul upset a few customers by promising schedules the manufacturers couldn’t meet, he went on to claim he had friends in high places in the tech world. This got the attention of one of them, who started a dialogue with Paul. Paul went on boasting about his contacts without realising he was now chatting to (and getting on the wrong side of) a VERY big name in tech – Mike Krahulik.

The full story of Ocean Marketing’s PR damage can be found on the Penny Arcade website here.

pr campaign disasters

The upside of all this PR damage is that people generally understood that the problem was with Paul and not the Avenger Controller manufacturers, who got better PR representation very quickly. The controller itself was never faulted and is in fact a very good product for disabled kids. Now the controller is getting reviewed by the likes of iJustine and looks set to be in the hands of the kids who need them in no time.

Lesson Learned:

  • Keep track of your PR and what they’re saying just in case they’re trying to end your career.
  • Don’t be like Paul Christoforo.

Red Cross Tweet

Any person or institution who has a team of people tweeting or using Facebook on their behalf runs the risk of following in the footsteps of the Red Cross with this embarrassing Tweet: “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas touch beer…. when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.”

social media pr

Obviously, this was an error made by someone who intended to send this to their private Twitter account. However the tweet went unnoticed for an hour, which was plenty time to get some unwanted attention. When the social media director got on the scene, she sent out a humorous Tweet to follow up: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”

What’s magical about this potential fiasco is that Dogfish Head got involved and helped them turn the situation into a clear positive. They asked their followers to tweet the hashtag #gettngslizzerd and to donate to the Red Cross.

Essentially, a minor yet public error which could happen to just about any company got brushed off with good nature and then turned into a truly positive event for Red Cross by some quick-thinking at Dogfish Head. No doubt they did themselves some favours too.

Lesson Learned:

  • Make light of your PR misfortune if it’s something understandable.
  • Watch out for Hootsuite!
  • Help out other people on the brink of a PR disaster – it’s good for everyone.

Fetchnotes Email

Fetchnotes are a start-up who are only really launching publicly this week Fetchnotes To Launch With Easy-Sync Notes For Mobile And Web [News] Read More (read more about Fetchnotes here Make Note Capturing Effortless Using SMS With Fetchnotes [150 Invites!] When you think of digitizing your notes, there are a few cloud-based front runners of the digital note revolution. Aside from Reqall though, none of these apps can actually accommodate users that want to create... Read More ). They recently had a PR blunder which was thoroughly embarrassing and easy to understand. They sent out a test email which had some swearing in the body. It was intended just to go to the staff as an in-house test, but guess what? It ran like that to all users.

pr campaign disasters

The Fetchnotes team panicked and feared the worst, but in fact they got back many light-hearted responses. Lots of users smiled as they realised they were dealing with real people and not some faceless entity. Of course, there were a few users who were upset by the language and Fetchnotes made sure they apologised to each and every one of them.

The upside of their disaster is that they saw an increase in people using their service after the test email went out. It seems that a lot of people who weren’t regular users were reminded of the service and decided to try it out again. What more could a start-up wish for?

Lessons Learned:

  • Proofread your test emails and don’t joke about when you write them!
  • Laugh at yourself if required.
  • Personal apologies can go a long way.

Have you ever had to recover from a serious PR blunder online? If so, what did you do?

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  1. SuperJdynamite
    April 18, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    I have a rule: don't allow naughty words anywhere near software. Not in comments, test data, anywhere. If you do it will eventually end up in front of a customer. It's like the naughty words *want* to be seen.

    • Angela Alcorn
      April 23, 2012 at 4:43 pm

      That's an awesome rule. I might borrow it. :)

  2. philg
    April 18, 2012 at 2:50 am

    Always take your mistakes seriously but don't treat them seriously, admit you goofed, fix it and move on. Don;t dig your hole any deeper.

    • Angela Alcorn
      April 23, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Good advice!

  3. Tim Brookes
    April 17, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    Awesome article, surprised I hadn't heard of some of these blunders before!

    • Angela Alcorn
      April 23, 2012 at 4:42 pm