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Stop The Press: 5 Examples Of How Bad Publicity Can Harm Your Business

They say all publicity is good publicity but is that true in the world of business? Social media and content marketing have become part and parcel of promoting your brand. However, there is a fine line between a PR triumph and disaster as many companies have found to their detriment!

We’ve compiled 5 examples that act as a cautionary tale to business owners to think before you speak, publish or tweet…



Taxi app Uber’s future in the UK hangs in the balance after the company was told it can no longer operate in London. However, the slippery slope of negative PR loomed over the popular service long before the ruling. Look back as far as 2014 and the company faced backlash over a sexist joke from CEO Travis Kalanick who told an Esquire reporter “We call that Boob-er.”


Shame! #Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's #sexist #quotes on their #workculture are almost too cringey to handle. #DeleteUber #siliconvalley

Twitter: @rebeccawalser


More recently Kalanick was caught on camera arguing with his own driver who quizzed him about falling passenger fares. He issued an apology and said he planned to get ‘leadership help’ but the damage had already been done. He took leave of absence just three months later but not before a couple of other PR blunders including the firing of more than 20 employees following an investigation into sexual harassment claims and workplace culture.



The Ryanair flight cancellation fiasco has scarcely been out of the press since it was revealed the company had “messed up” its pilots’ holidays forcing customer bookings to be scrapped. Ouch! The popular airline company has weathered other tough PR storms in the past though. In a Twitter Q&A in 2013 Michael O’Leary was accused of sexism when he commented on a female user’s Twitter photo: “Nice pic. Phwoaaarr!”. In 2004 a court ruled against Ryanair in its decision to charge a man with cerebral palsy and arthritis £18 to use his wheelchair on a flight.


Here we go! #GrillMOL

Twitter: @Ryanair


More recently the airline annoyed passengers when it revealed its big idea to charge them to use toilet facilities. The idea did not go down well in the media and customers were not amused at the thought of literally ‘spending a penny’!.



The American brewery giants were left with a bad taste in their mouths after their bold campaign, which was designed to take on independent craft ales that were disrupting the market, experienced a major Twitter and media backlash. An advert that ran during the 2015 Super Bowl taunted hipsters they described as quaffing delicate glasses of “pumpkin peach ale” and added that “It’s brewed for drinking. Not dissecting.”

This year the Super Bowl advert poked fun at craft beers again by stating it was “not small”, “not sipped” and “not a hobby”. Budweiser’s publicists provoked a reaction but not necessarily the one they were hoping for when craft ale brewers BrewDog launched a Twitter campaign called #NotBackingDown.



If you’re a greetings card supplier then Mother’s Day is no doubt a big deal and an opportunity for positive publicity. However, this year disappointed mothers up and down the country wondered if their offspring still truly appreciated them! Angry Moonpig customers tweeted their disappointment about Mother’s day cards and flowers they claimed were damaged, late or failed to arrive. The images did not make for a happy Twitter feed.

Twitter: @hjp1000

Moonpig apologised explaining that the problems were due to “an issue” with a supplier.


Krispy Kreme

In 2015 Krispy Kreme were forced to apologise after a poster had their celebrity endorsers running for the hills. In a great example of how one tiny part of a mega brand can damage its entire reputation, a branch in Hull publicised half-term activities for kids including the Krispy Kreme Klub, or KKK Wednesday, as it was unfortunately titled.


Advertisement for Krispy Kreme Klub Wednesday - or KKK Wednesday as it was unfortunately titled


Needless to say, despite immediately removing the Facebook post and issuing an apology, there was a social media explosion of photoshopped images of Ku Klux Klan members with Krispy Kreme donuts.

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Philip Brennan is head of, an online resource to help new and existing small businesses make the right choices when looking for a bank account, an energy supplier or finance solutions.

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