Not sure if this is just the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon wreaking havoc with my mind, but I’ve been in crisis mode of late, helping others navigate the uncertain waters of unfortunate events in their business, projects and personal lives, and it seems that every day my eyes are drawn to the headlines surrounding PR gaffes, scandals and crises.
Whether it reflects an editorial shift for media, or just my own sharpened awareness, I feel that 2015 has been a bonanza of blunders, and we’re only just halfway through!
But the half-year mark is a good time to reflect on what has transpired and take a look at some of the potential crises that are lying in wait.
Where to begin? I guess I’ll start with the latest. Jared Fogle, of Subway weight loss fame, is bound to get a lot of play in the media for the next month or two, given the dramatic scene of FBI investigators raiding his house, confiscating electronic devices. He is at risk of losing his lucrative endorsement contract, currently under suspension, and you can bet his foundation to help combat childhood obesity will suffer, if they find what they’re looking for. A man in his position can’t afford to speak through his lawyer for long, even if it’s only to confirm that he is cooperating with investigators. In any event, be prepared for many headlines to come.
Other honourable mentions are Bill Cosby, virtually convicted in the court of public opinion over serving Quaaludes to unsuspecting women, Jian Ghomeshi treating women in a similar vein, and Paula Deen, treating us to a dose of her racial issues with African and Hispanic Americans. Any which way you slice it, publicists are earning their money this year.
The Lufthansa-owned airline Germanwings earned scorn and praise from the public after a suicidal co-pilot commandeered the airbus and killed all 150 aboard. Allegations swirled for weeks about when who knew what about the co-pilot’s mental state, and what the extent of their liability should be. To their credit, they reacted swiftly and set a new airline standard to ensure no one is ever left in the cockpit alone. Clear, decisive action is always a strong indication of good leadership.
Closer to home, WestJet has been grounded five times in recent weeks, receiving bomb threats that had to be taken seriously. Their concern for public safety was front and centre during the incidents and people were able to forgive the inconvenience of diverted flights, unexpected layovers and extended travel times. This is one of the key advantages to having a topped-up goodwill account that you can draw from in a crisis.
FIFA (it really deserves its own category)
The huge, worldwide scandals that have been plaguing the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, commonly known as FIFA, came to a head in 2015 after years of corrupt business practices. The unabashed unethical behaviour continued despite outcry from the world’s legions of soccer fans who regard their passion as more than just a sport, but a religion. To get a full grasp of how deep this rabbit hole goes, watch this impressive, and humorous, account from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight in 2014:
Viva Pan Am!
Looking forward a bit, the Pan Am and Para Pan Am Games are underway here in Toronto. The glow of the games has certainly lost some of its shine leading into the festivities, but there is a palpable change in the way the games are being portrayed in the media, hoping for it to be an outstanding success. Now, the Olympic Games they are not, I can only imagine the craziness associated with hosting something on that scale, but there is always some sort of scandal or incident that mars an international gathering of this size. I’ll be watching carefully, but for the sake of the athletes, the spectators and may home town, I hope all goes well.
Did I miss any significant events? Can you foresee a PR disaster waiting to happen? Describe it for us in the comments below.