Australia’s ten biggest PR disasters in 2010

The Qantas A380 engine blast has been named the worst Australian PR disaster of 2010, in the annual PR Disasters Awards by PR watchdog and blogsite PRdisasters.com.

Public Relations trainingThe Canberra Raiders’ ‘dog sex’ scandal, the Commonwealth Bank’s premium interest rate hike and the David Jones sexual assault case were just some of the diverse incidents to make the year’s definitive list of PR gaffes. Celebrities Stephanie Rice, Matthew Newton and Lara Bingle also hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in 2010.

The Awards highlight the worst examples of business, celebrity, government, media and sports gaffes. For the very first time, the results have been processed to include PR disasters in both traditional and online media, including social media spaces.

Gerry McCusker of the PR Disasters blog, partnered with Bree Dwyer from online and social media monitoring agency Cyber Chatter to run, analyse and calculate Australia’s biggest PR blunders, using world-leading Alterian SM2 technology.

Gerry McCusker says it is now vital to understand how social media can create a negative PR firestorm for your business.

“We’re seeing that social media is an increasing influence in determining the impact and duration of PR disasters. As citizen media clearly aids commentary and sharing of bad news stories, it’s essential to have strategies to cope with online sniping and gossip.”

To qualify as a PR disaster, the incident must catalyse sustained, negative media coverage for the brand, business or person at the centre of the story.

Here are Australia’s Top 10 PR Disasters for 2010 (biggest disaster first):

1. Qantas – A380 fleet consecutive engine issues and passenger delays
2. Commonwealth Bank – premium interest rate hikes
3. Labor Party – corporate backlash against the proposed ‘Resource Super Profits Tax’
4. Melbourne Storm – salary cap scandal
5. Stephanie Rice – homophobic comments posted via Twitter
6. Canberra Raiders – Joel Monaghan ‘dog sex’ photo
7. Virgin Blue – reservations and check-in system crash
8. Matthew Newton – after alleged assault of then partner Rachel Taylor in Italy
9. David Jones – CEO sexual assault scandal
10. Lara Bingle – media relations following split with  Michael Clark

  • Lauren

    What a pity the no1 gaffe, the A380 was actually a Rolls Royce engine issue. The media have unfortunately got the taste for blood of Qantas in their sights and forget to tell the rest of the story. If only they shouted the praise of the pilots and crew who averted any disaster and showed true professionalism to land those passengers safely.

  • I’m not following the logic of the authors in asserting that the Qantas A380 incident is the biggest PR disaster of the year?

    If you follow the criteria that the authors set out to qualify:

    “To qualify as a PR disaster, the incident must catalyse sustained, negative media coverage for the brand, business or person at the centre of the story”

    How can Qantas come out on top? Clearly the incident generated a lot of coverage both in mainstream and in social channels. But how is relevance measured?

    What do we know about how Qantas dealt with this incident?

    They handled the event pretty much as could be expected given the serious nature of the event; within hours of the incident, stories of the flight crews skill and calmness started to emerge including the Captain talking one on one with passengers after the event; the crucial decision to ground the A380 fleet was crucial and reflected their core brand promise; as the real details of the Rolls Royce issue emerged Qantas actions have been recognised as prudent.

    Could Qantas have done more to engage the public via social channels – probably. But most of Australia’s top brands are still getting their heads around the social sphere. Does that qualify them as being worthy of the biggest PR disaster? I’m not convinced.