Roastbusters tops list of epic fails

20:15, Dec 31 2013

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

Wellington-based BlacklandPR began releasing an annual list of the worst PR disasters according to complexity, emotion and the size of the PR challenge last year.

The roastbusters scandal came in at No 1, scoring 28 out of 30, 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."

The Fonterra botulism incident came in at No 2, scoring 26, labelled by the company "an own goal".


"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 of the top 12 issues were Government-related, said Blackham, which was 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.

"I think Air NZ and the tattoos is probably a case in point. They would have no reason to have thought that was going to come up.

"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 New Zealand 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. AirNZ - Rejected tattoo


Fairfax NZ

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