The Naughty-And-Nice List: 2011’s PR Peaks, Pitfalls

December 22, 2011

By: Cathy
Was it a good year in PR? Some of the biggest news stories of 2011 show the best and the worst the industry had to offer during the past 12 months.
PR peaks:
The CDC's zombie apocalypse: How do you raise awareness for emergency preparedness? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a great way this year when it launched “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.” While teaching important lessons about public health, the campaign also increased the organization's daily page views from 3,000 to 30,000 and boosted its Twitter following overnight from 12,000 to 1.2 million followers.
Occupy Wall Street: In its earliest days, the Occupy movement was either ignored by the press or characterized as disorganized and unfocused. As the year closes, however, there are few Americans who don't know the implied message of the simple phrase, “We are the 99 percent.” As Forbes put it in October, “Occupy Wall Street has turned itself into a well-oiled public relations machine.”
Amanda Knox: Whatever your views on American exchange student Amanda Knox, her four-year journey and eventual release from an Italian prison created one of 2011's biggest PR success stories. As The Puget Sound Business Journal wrote, “The partnership between the Knox family and Seattle public relations specialist David Marriott illustrates the potential of a public relations campaign to shift sentiment — and possibly even influence a verdict.”
PR pitfalls:
1. Bank of America: Did five bucks ever create such a ruckus as it did when Bank of America announced a monthly debit card fee? Even after the bank backed down and removed the fee, customers stayed angry.
2. Netflix: Anyone who has seen that “Come back to Netflix!” e-mail in her inbox knows that the entertainment company is still stinging from its blunders last fall. First there was the wildly unpopular price hike. Then there was the wildly unpopular apology from the CEO, which included news of the wildly unpopular spin-off of the company's DVD business. Netflix PR had a bad year, and this guy didn't help.
3. Penn State: Much more went wrong at Penn State than PR strategy can possibly cure, but the university has hired an agency all the same in an apparent effort to brace itself for the next phase of the scandal. That effort, however, may be too late to salvage the institution's reputation.
Which campaigns made your naughty-and-nice list this year?

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