It’s that time of year again: We’re here to review what we view as the year’s biggest bloopers and blunders in public relations and communications. For better or for worse, there was no shortage of scandals and outrageous moments in 2017 across the public and private sectors. Here are what we think were some of this year’s biggest (and preventable) PR disasters.
The Infamous United Airlines Incident
Is there anyone who doesn’t know about the United Airlines incident? This now infamous PR disaster began when a United passenger, Dr. David Dao, was violently dragged off an overbooked United flight. The scene was caught on cellphone videos and quickly went viral. Chief executive Oscar Munoz only fanned the flames with his non-apology for having to “re-accommodate” Dr. Dao. A leaked email from Munoz to employees also called Dr. Dao “disruptive and belligerent.” United recovered slightly a few weeks later when it released a list of ten improvements the company would make to avoid similar incidents.
Mack assessment: As we often say on the Mack Report, honesty is the best policy. While it’s best to admit (and potentially apologize and correct) for a blunder early, don’t think it’s ever too late. It’s also important to avoid playing the blame game; take responsibility for your own mistakes. We think United could have kept the situation more under control by taking credit earlier for its mistake, calling it what it is, showing empathy and apologizing to Dr. Dao.