Roastbusters tops list of epic PR fails

Last updated 05:00 01/01/2014

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The Roastbusters scandal and botulism bungle topped 2013's list of worst PR disasters.

Wellington-based BlacklandPR has released its annual list of the worst PR disasters according to complexity, emotion and the size of the PR challenge.

The Roastbusters scandal came in at No 1, with BlacklandPR director Mark Blackham saying that the emotions sparked by the issue made it the toughest PR challenge of the year.

"Sex and morality made this the most talked about and highly charged issue.

"We call these "black hole" issues. They drawn in and consume everything near them, including the light of reason; in this case the police and other individuals."

Fonterra's "own goal" botulism incident came in at No 2.

"Fonterra's product recall came a close second due to the international danger posed by potentially lethal bacteria, and the risk to New Zealand's reputation," Blackham said.

"What made the challenge really remarkable was that it was completely Fonterra's own doing. It sounded the alarm on something that did not exist."

More than half the top 12 issues were government-related, said Blackham - a higher proportion than last year.

He said over the last few years an increasing number of issues had become national talking points where the people involved didn't expect them to - a "case in point" being Air NZ, which caused controversy after curtailing an interview with an aspiring air hostess who had a ta moko on her arm.

"They would have no reason to have thought that was going to come up.

"[National MP Aaron] Gilmore probably would never have thought his little clash in the restaurant would have ended up as that [a PR disaster]."

BlacklandPR wasn't exempt from making it onto the list either, said Blackham.

"One of our clients is NZ Post. We like to think that we're the type of organisation that people will come to when they do have issues like that."

Blackham said the issues that tended to spark public debate involved sex, fairness, gender, and lifestyle. 

TOP PR DISASTERS

1. NZ Police – Roastbusters

2. Fonterra – "Botulism" recall

3. John Key – GCSB

4. Ministry for Primary Industries – Snapper

5. NZ Treasury – State asset sales

6. EQC – Privacy breach

7. Waikato DHB – Fluoride

8. NZ Post – Service changes

9. Len Brown – Affair

10. Banking Industry – Loan to value ratios

11. NZOG – Pike River payouts

12. Air NZ – Rejected tattoo 

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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