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Posts Tagged ‘tragedy’

Western Clothing Brands Escape Blame in Deadly Factory Collapse

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(Pic via Associated Press/A.M. Ahad)

It was one of 2013′s most tragic stories—and it should have been one of the year’s biggest PR disasters as well.

Unfortunately, as we enter 2014 it looks like the Western clothing companies involved in April’s Bangladeshi factory collapse have washed their hands of it in every possible way.

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Why Tragedy and Twitter Should Never Mix

Arapahoe Shooting

A basic fact: when it comes to heinous events that involve mass chaos, terror or even death, people should immediately throw their smartphones out of the window, thereby resisting the temptation to tweet and forever be linked to stupefaction via social media.

Meet some simpletons who thought tragedy provided a great opportunity to stand on a soapbox, drop trow and moon the nation. For politics.

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PR Fail: Cinemark Invites Families of Aurora Shooting Victims to Theater Reopening

A note to readers: While most of the PR failures we write about are unfortunate, they are also amusing (on some level). This one, however, cannot be categorized as anything but horrifically insensitive, bordering on cruel.

Relatives of the victims of last summer’s movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado recently received invitations from Cinemark USA to attend the reopening of the same theater at which their loved ones lost their lives. The invitations, which were sent just after the holidays, urged recipients to “reserve [their] tickets” for an evening of remembrance and a movie to follow.

In response, family members sent a strongly-worded letter to Cinemark in which they expressed anger and outrage at the company’s lack of compassion, calling the invitation “disgusting”. They also noted that Cinemark representatives never reached out to offer their condolences; the company even rebuffed requests to meet with family members without lawyers present. The letter admonishes the reopening celebration as a “thinly veiled publicity ploy” and calls for a boycott of the theater.

Click through for the full letter, which appeared in The Denver Post complete with the signatures of eight shooting victims’ relatives:

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NRA’s Media Team Goes Silent After Newtown Tragedy

National Rifle AssociationFriday’s horrific violence in Newtown, Connecticut, understandably dominated every corner of the American media this weekend.

Many citizens (most prominently President Obama) spoke of taking every available step to prevent similar shootings in the future while others warned against politicizing the tragedy. Quite a few Americans also had energetic debates about gun control, both online and off. Even West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who built a campaign around disagreeing with his party’s leaders on gun rights, suggested that the nation must now have a “sensible” dialogue on gun control.

Nearly every business and organization in the country, from The National School Board to a group representing the families of Virginia Tech shooting victims, made some sort of official statement. Yet the nonprofit at the center of America’s relationship with guns was conspicuously silent: The National Rifle Association has not released an official statement or tweet since the tragedy, and its Facebook page is no longer visible today. While officials at both the NRA and Facebook have not responded to requests for comment, bloggers at TechCrunch speculated that the group took its page offline in order to “avoid hosting flame wars” between commentors on opposing sides of the gun control issue. Knowing the nature of online debates as well as we do, we think that was a very good idea.

We sympathize with the NRA’s position from a PR perspective:

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Was the Kate Middleton Prank Call Tragedy Avoidable?

Kate Middleton Prince William In a very public attempt at damage control, the Australian radio station behind the prank call to Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton’s hospital has issued an apology, suspended the DJs involved, and now looks to take further steps to rescue its reputation.

While we hesitate to draw a line between the call and the subsequent suicide of the nurse/receptionist who answered it, the station has also agreed to donate all advertising profits from now until the end of the year to the woman’s family (according to a statement, the donation will amount to at least $500,000). While this offer is incredibly generous, we have to say that it all feels like “too little, too late.”

Now Australian PR man Lyall Mercer of Mercer PR weighs in, writing that both the station and the hospital should have been able to foresee the risks of their actions. First, he thinks that the hospital, knowing that any security breach would attract widespread attention, should have developed specific policies “to protect the world’s most famous people”.

We’re not quite sure we agree with that sentiment because the hospital is a public health facility, but we certainly do believe that producers at the station “should have read the future better”, because “even if the prank ‘succeeded’, there was still the real possibility of a nasty public backlash due to the fact that they called a hospital”.

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New York Post Publishes Another Offensive Photo

New York PostWe’re usually more concerned with the acts of PR departments than Editorial departments, but today the always-classy New York Post reached a new low by publishing a photo of a man about to be crushed by a subway train.

Cue inevitable outrage.

In a terrible tragedy that involves one of New Yorkers’ top fears, a Queens-based businessman and father approached a panhandler who’d been harassing midtown commuters during rush hour traffic–and the man responded by pushing him onto the subway tracks, where he was crushed to death by an oncoming train. A freelance photographer standing in the station captured the scene but didn’t have time to help the man to safety before the train arrived. (If you want to see the full picture, you’ll need to click on the Gawker link—we’re not going to post it here.)

A few points:

  • As far as we know, the New York Post has never been a reputable brand. Its editors can publish all the Charles Krauthammer they want but the public will still see their paper as a cheap tabloid.
  • Of course the rag chose the photo because they knew it would be controversial.
  • By posting on the “scandal”, we’re probably being a little hypocritical by driving more attention toward a mag and site that we don’t like.

All these things are true. And yet, we have to ask: At what point do tasteless stories like these become a burden for the Post? Does its public image even matter, or has it become the East Coast equivalent of TMZ–completely immune to criticism?

Man Sues Airlines for Obese Wife’s Death

KLM AirlinesIn a tale of tragedy and PR disaster that almost certainly could have been avoided, a grieving Bronx husband just announced plans to sue Delta, KLM and Lufthansa airlines for millions.

Earlier this year, the three carriers each claimed to be unable to provide seating to his wife Vilma, who died in Europe while awaiting a return flight to New York. The couple planned to go home to the States after a European vacation so Vilma could resume treatment for diabetes and kidney disease; she weighed approximately 425 pounds at the time of her death.

The couple flew to their native Hungary via Delta and KLM “without incident” in September after Vilma apparently boarded two planes “with the help of an airlift…and a seatbelt extender”. Husband Janos now claims that airline reps in Europe “asked about return flights so [they] could make proper arrangements” and that he purchased two separate seats on the way back to accommodate his wife.

And yet, the couple’s lawyer says that the very same KLM Airlines forced the pair to de-plane in Budapest “due to an issue with a seat back” and urged them to drive to Prague, where a second pilot ordered Vilma from his plane after “they put her on the seat and they couldn’t belt her in”. The two then drove to Frankfurt only to be denied service by Lufthansa reps, who voiced concerns over passenger safety when Vilma “didn’t fit in a three-seat gap”; she died of kidney failure in Hungary two days later.

A Delta rep told ABC News that the airline simply couldn’t seat Vilma “Despite a determined good-faith effort”; the husband’s attorney claims that his client “wants to know why his wife had to die because the airlines simply didn’t want to be inconvenienced.”

We’re not sure the story is so simple.

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Bad PR: FDA Cites 5-Hour Energy in 13 Deaths

5-Hour EnergyIt’s tough to peddle caffeine these days unless you brew coffee, isn’t it? This week brought controversy over “Jack’d Cracker Jacks” while last month saw the FDA issue a report tying Monster Energy Drink to at least five deaths around the country. N0w we hear of yet another report linking the popular 5-Hour Energy drink to even more fatalities.

The 13 deaths cited in this story easily top the five blamed on Monster, and the details are even more troubling: the popular wake-up shot with the awful commercials was mentioned in approximately 90 filings since 2009 and linked to everything from heart attacks and tremors to “a spontaneous abortion”. We’ll bet everyone at distributor Living Essentials and its parent company Innovation Ventures just loves that phrase.

As expected, the FDA tempered its reports with conditional statements–and a Living Essentials rep defended the company by claiming to be “unaware of any deaths proven to be caused by the consumption of 5-Hour Energy.” The fact that regulatory authorities classify the product as a “dietary supplement” further complicates the issue.

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BP Agrees to Pay Highest Fine in History for Gulf Spill

BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico Spill BP‘s hopes of negotiating an out-of-court settlement regarding the disastrous 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill officially died today as the company agreed to pay a $4.5 billion dollar fine to the US government. That total includes reparations owed to government agencies like the SEC and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation along with $1.3 billion in criminal fines–the largest such penalty in history.

Perhaps even more significantly, the company also admitted its own culpability in the deaths of 11 rig workers as part of the agreement and confessed to lying to members of congress about the scale of the damage. And that’s not all: two BP employees will face felony charges of manslaughter relating to their roles in the deaths.

We can’t say we envy the firm responsible for dragging BP’s reputation out of the gutter. The company’s Olympics ads may have been surprisingly effective in boosting consumer perceptions, but we can’t imagine this latest development going over too well with an already skeptical public. BP won’t be getting past this you-know-what anytime soon.

Despite all the noise, BP still managed to make a $5.5. billion profit in the third quarter alone–so brace yourself for a glut of commercials starring oil-splattered birds, wrecked homes and Good Samaritans who just happen to be wearing BP logos.

PR Nightmare: Teen Deaths Tied to Monster Energy Drink

We never thought an “energy drink” could have a poorer public reception than Four Loko, but Monster appears to have landed in an even deeper ditch—and its products don’t even contain alcohol!

A certain big-deal organization known as the FDA just released a report asserting that as many as five people died over the past three years after drinking Monster. While the report draws no direct, indisputable link between Monster and the tragedies in question, we can all agree that this sort of story is every company’s worst PR nightmare.

The victims, all of whom were teenagers, had a couple of crucial factors in common: each of them drank one or more 24-ounce cans of Monster less than 24 hours before dying of heart failure. The FDA also received multiple reports of consumers experiencing problems like “abdominal pain, vomiting, tremors and abnormal heart rate” after drinking Monster.

Does the drink really pose a risk to the general public? While every can contains 240 milligrams of caffeine, company representatives note that the average 16-ounce cup of coffee contains even more of the potentially damaging stimulant. That point may be irrelevant, though. The case got a lot bigger last week when one of the victims’ mothers responded to her daughter’s death by filing a lawsuit against the publicly traded company; its stock prices (NYSE: MNST) fell accordingly.

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