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The 14 Biggest #PRFails of 2014


The leaves are dying, the trees are barren, the weather is getting colder, and there’s no money left in your bank account. That literal and figurative chill in the air can only mean one thing — it’s award season for public relations.

It’s that time of the year when we scour the Interweb for the best ideas and most original thoughts; we also remember those unlucky/unintelligent/unprepared folks ready to take their rightful place atop the pedestal for staging the worst communications failures of the year.

PR fails are those instances when a brand or personality just loses its for a moment. Unlike the year’s real “losers” (cough…Uber…sniff…American Apparel…hack…Lululemon), these juggernauts of jocularity can provide us with a bit of holiday comedy, after which we can all stand and applaud the fact that we were not in any way involved.

Without further ado, here are the worst #PRFails of 2014. Enjoy — we did…

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Warren Buffett: Protecting Berkshire Hathaway’s Reputation Is “Top Priority”

via Twitter

via Twitter

Warren Buffett sent his biennial memo to staff members, outlining the “succession planning” for Berkshire Hathaway and other items of importance. The top priority on the list “trumping everything else, including profits — is that all of us zealously guard Berkshire’s reputation.”

Buffett makes it clear in the memo that while money will come and go, the company’s reputation can slip away and never recover.

“We can afford to lose money — even a lot of money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation — not a shred of reputation,” the memo reads.

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The Ticker: The Interview as Statement; Return of Bulldog Reporter; NSA Admits to Everything; And More

FedEx Didn’t Deliver Your Gift? It Might Be On the Side of a Colorado Highway

FedEx (along with UPS) took steps this year to avoid the debacle of 2014, when many people didn’t get packages they’d hoped to be opening on Christmas Day. Both delivery services laid down the rules about last-minute shipping, placing restrictions on retailers so they wouldn’t be overwhelmed by package deliveries and improving systems for moving packages from place to place.

“Surging online shopping over the holidays fueled by offers of free shipping and deep discounts tests the limits of the infrastructure—planes, trucks and sorting hubs—used to deliver the gifts to tens of millions of homes in neighborhoods from Miami to Seattle,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

But it looks like FedEx is being undone by an issue that has nothing to do with online shopping or retailer promises. Read more

PSA Features Student Who Takes A Gun To School… To Turn It In To The Teacher

A filmmaker, Rejina Sincic, has faced harsh criticism for a gun control PSA that features a teenage boy who takes his family’s firearm to school and then turns it in to the teacher because he doesn’t feel safe with it in his home. There’s been so much backlash that Sincic pulled down the original post of the clip and reposted it with the comments disabled.

Clearly, Sincic’s goal was to shock viewers into paying attention, but there are some who say the video, presented without context, could have the opposite of its intended effect.

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Nothing Better Than an Eggnog Chugging Contest to Put You in the ER for Christmas

eggnog gassyEggnog.

That vat of murky glop smelling of Yuletide joy, Maalox, and regurgitation is reflective of all things holiday-ish. There must some hypnotic charm intertwined with the beads of adhesive elixir because people buy this stuff in bulk during this time of the year.

So, it makes sense that someone would challenge the power eaters of this country to an eggnog chugging contest. Alcohol-free festivity, of course, so it is time to sing carols…all the way to the ICU.

Yeah, not the most wonderful time of the year for the winner.  Read more

Instagram Scrubs Spam, Prepares for Bigger and Better Things

Justin Bieber IG caption: "Aren't we all just searching for peace"

Justin Bieber IG caption: “Aren’t we all just searching for peace”

Facebook stock reached a high point the other day — $81.45 a share, the most expensive since its botched 2012 IPO. The social media site made marketing gains in mobile and, just as importantly, in Instagram, the photo and video sharing site that has 300 million monthly active users, surpassing Twitter. (Twitter had 284 million in October, according to Bloomberg.)

Now the site is preparing for the future, introducing new filters and offering verified badges.

“As Instagram gets bigger, we’re focused on helping you discover photos and videos from people who you care about, whether it’s a friend or your favorite musician,” Kevin Systrom, the CEO of Instagram said in a recent press statement.

“…Today, we’re excited to announce verified badges for celebrities, athletes and brands, making it easier for you to connect with the authentic accounts you’re looking for,” he continued. “…Finally, as more people join, keeping Instagram authentic is critical—it’s a place where real people share real moments. We’re committed to doing everything possible to keep Instagram free from the fake and spammy accounts that plague much of the web, and that’s why we’re finishing up some important work that began earlier this year.”

In doing away with “spammy” accounts, there was what the internet dubbed an #InstagramPurge, in which some celebs lost millions of fake followers. No sad selfies folks. This is a good thing.

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Sad Dogma: Pope Francis Did Not Say All Dogs Go to Heaven

pope francis animalsIf your friends follow the PRNewserverse (and why shouldn’t they), everyone would tell you that Pope Francis is the patron saint of PR.

For the most part, the guy has held the Midas Touch in those ruby red shoes and golden scepter of his since he took the helm of the Holy See. Lately, he has gone off his granola path by claiming evolution was cool and demoting a Cardinal for not respecting his ‘aut-thor-i-tay.’

However, he quickly won back some headlines by claiming all animals have a place in heaven.

Lovers of our four-legged friends across the Catholic Church were giddy with comfort and expectation. And then, word came out this week that he didn’t quite say that.  Read more

5 of the Bestest Practices Learned from Social Media in 2014

Education concept: Thumb Up and Best Practice on computer keyboaThe year is almost done — and looking back, it’s easy to say that “social media” had a colossal year.

Pinterest grew up to become No. 3 in terms of traffic. Facebook finally learned to monetize itself. Twitter’s attempt to look  more like Facebook actually worked. People now use the Internet for social media more than for shopping, gossip, or even porn.

However, 2014 was also a year for learning. There were lots of winners and losers (who will be making an appearance in the PRNewserverse very soon), and we can use to their experiences to come up with five best practice principles. This week’s #5Things does the homework for you and dives into lessons learned.

Here are the 5 bestest practices learned from social media in 2014.

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Sony Backtracks, Will Release The Interview After All

via James Franco's IG. Caption: CELEBRATING!!!!! “The Interview” starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco saved by President Obacco! I MEAN PRESIDENT OBAMA!!!!! Sorry!!!

via James Franco’s Instagram. Caption: CELEBRATING!!!!! “The Interview” starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco saved by President Obacco! I MEAN PRESIDENT OBAMA!!!!! Sorry!!!

We all got our wish and The Interview will be available in limited release on Christmas Day. Hooray! Go home elves… you have nothing more that we want.

Well actually, we would want it to play in a few more theaters perhaps. So far, Alamo Drafthouse seems to be the only theater confirming that they’ll run the movie in a few states, with showtimes and everything being offered. We’re going to re-state our prediction that there will also be some sort of on-demand option coming from Sony soon.

So everyone will watch this movie, right? It’s now your patriotic duty.

*Updates after the jump.

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