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Top 7 ‘PR Case Study’ Names We Never Want to Hear in 2014

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You may have missed it (lucky you), but lots of PR-ready news stories went down this year. Some were ridiculous, some were inspiring, some were cringe-worthy “teaching moments” and some were held up as “let’s figure out how this person got so successful so we can quantify it” case studies. We posted on every one of them at some point, and for that we offer our profoundest apologies—but they were trending at the time, and this is how the blog game works.

Here’s the point: after performing some in-depth research, we decided that 2013 gave us more than enough news and analysis regarding these seven people, and we’d prefer to hear absolutely nothing about them in 2014. In fact, we think we can distill the “lessons” learned from each case into a single sentence.

Click through for what we hope will be one last glimpse at those who have (almost) nothing to teach the rest of us.

7. Anthony Weiner and his communications manager

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LESSON: Don’t be a pervert or a massive jerk

Oh no, not this guy. We might go through the list of all the many, many things he did wrong, but what it really comes down to is “don’t count on the public to forgive you”—especially when they have not a single reason in the world to do so. Carlos Danger’s communications manager also showed us why it’s an incredibly stupid idea to curse out a journalist over the phone, but again this is hardly a point worth considering. It’s just basic decency.

On the bright side, at least every single person who isn’t directly related to Weiner got a laugh out of it. But then remembering that he has a family just makes it depressing all over again, so we ask the former representative to please leave the world alone next year.

6. Lance Armstrong

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LESSON: Don’t be a lying liar

This dude dominated the end of 2012 and just couldn’t stop in 2013. We were never too impressed by Mr. Wristband in the first place, but the endless coverage and the Oprah interview and all the conversations about reputation management wore us out. There’s no rehabilitation for a guy who makes up new lies to covers old lies and attacks the messengers even harder when he knows they’re right. Comeback? Please don’t.

5. Lady Gaga

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LESSON: Just say “no” to overexposure

In the past we’ve called her “a PR stunting machine“, but the novelty always wears off for a one-tricky pony, and no matter how many times Gaga cries wolf, one can always sum her message up as “Look at me; I’m weird“. Weak sales for her new album will hopefully give her handlers a hint to back off the stunts and focus on the music itself, but she’s been on this ride so long that we have little faith in her ability to stop. And we can’t think of a single Gaga song we’ve heard since 2011.

4. Miley Cyrus

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LESSON: Hate clicks are still clicks

Many journalists told us not to pay attention to Miley’s antics this year because we were all playing into her game by writing disapproving stories about her tastelessness or her strange back-and-forth with Sinead O’Connor. We agreed but posted on it anyway. Was the strategy behind Miley’s plan to own 2013 brilliant? Probably. But we already knew that people click on things they hate; it’s the driving force behind every political story in history.

3. Paula Deen

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LESSON: Adapt to the century in which you live

Many ambitious people within the industry would love to have this deep-fried butter dealer as a high-paying client, but is there really anything she can teach us beyond “don’t be a painfully obvious racist?” She is what  she is, and no amount of media coaching will convince us otherwise.

2. Kenneth Cole

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LESSON: Don’t use tragedy and controversy to serve your own interests (unless that works for you)

Kenneth Cole does everything we should tell our clients NOT to do: he stokes public outrage to win attention and, in most cases, brushes off the negative response as “no biggie” because, as the owner of an extremely successful business, he somehow doesn’t have to play by the rules. But it won’t work for anybody else, and this is a good thing.

1. All Things Ending in “Kardashian”

LESSON: Act like a decent person for once in your life

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If the average celebrity do-gooder planned a charity auction and skimmed 90% of the profits off the top, it would be a big story. For Kim, it was just standard operating procedure. While we begrudgingly acknowledge that there’s a good deal of money to be made on such frivolities, no one better personifies the ancient art of being famous for being famous while somehow managing to be extremely unpopular at the same time. They’re a cottage industry fit to rival the Jacksons.

On second thought, maybe they have some value as the case study to disprove all other case studies.

That was kind of painful. We can’t guarantee that we won’t mention any of these people next year, but we can give it the old college try. As far as the other major media outlets are concerned, however, all bets are off.

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