I know what you’re thinking…not another 2011 recap post highlighting the PR blunders from the past year. No worries! This post will explore the bad AND the good.
Let’s start by taking a look at the positive stories from 2011 — those rare moments that captivated the attention of the nation (and, in some cases, the world) for the better. In an era when people naturally gravitate toward the plethora of negative news out there, these five memorable moments were a breath of fresh air:
1. The Royal Wedding. The union of Prince William and Kate Middleton, now The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, captured approximately three billion viewers according to The New York Times—and that is just the tip of the iceberg. In the weeks and months leading up to the big event, publications around the globe, including daily newspapers, entertainment publications and business outlets, indulged readers with every detail of the nuptials. Our own Michele Dickens even engaged in the chatter with this awesome post about the Royal Wedding invitations.
Perhaps the hottest topic was the designer of the Duchess’ wedding gown. People magazine—along with every other fashion and entertainment magazine around the world—had several features on the topic, including a pre-reveal poll of which designer would win the job and a post-wedding recap analyzing her look. In the end, Alexander McQueen was the winner with this beautiful lace dress.
While the Royal Wedding certainly didn’t make up for the negative events unfolding simultaneously, the positive coverage was infectious in nature and offered some refreshing reading amongst news of doom and gloom.
2. The road to the World Cup Final. When the U.S. Women’s Soccer team made it to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, it generated positive PR on a number of fronts. First, it was great for the credibility of the sport in the United States. According to ESPN MediaZone, the match between the United States and Japan was the sixth most viewed soccer telecast ever in the United States, garnering 13.458 million viewers. The avid following that developed over the course of the tournament was also great for women’s sports in general, which have historically generated far less hype than those of our male counterparts.
In addition, the World Cup run created great PR opportunities for one player in particular: Hope Solo. In addition to being prominently featured in the Body Issue of ESPN The Magazine, Hope was a member of the Season 13 Dancing with the Stars cast. In short, the PR lifespan of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team run at the World Cup lasted well beyond the July 17th shootout.
3. Farewell Oprah. Hello OWN. While many viewed Oprah’s departure from daytime television after 25 years as a sad loss (present company excluded), the media mogul used her final farewell as a platform to promote her new OWN network incredibly well. The farewell season of the Oprah Winfrey Show, which kicked off on September 13, 2010 and concluded on May 25, 2011, was the ideal lead-in for the January 1, 2011 network launch.
Once the new network went live, the ever savvy Oprah lured her avid fan base to her new network by showing a marathon of Oprah: Behind the Scenes. She also capitalized on the reality TV contest craze by airing Your Own Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star. Oprah managed to turn the end of one career chapter into the prelude to what she hopes will be a much larger broadcast book.
4. Detroit’s Resurgence. From a PR and communications perspective, 2011 served Detroit well. The Detroit Tigers clinched the AL East Championship, eliminating the Yankees. As icing on the cake, pitcher Justin Verlander was named the Cy Young Award winner and the American League MVP. The Tigers playoff run garnered rare positive media attention for Detroit and created an amazing positive atmosphere in and around the city.
During the 2011 Super Bowl, the Chrysler “Imported from Detroit” ad featuring Eminem was unveiled, and the world took notice. From Entertainment Weekly and AOL News to the LA Times, the buzz this ad created put Detroit and the auto industry in the national spotlight in a positive way for the first time in a long time.
As a self-proclaimed foodie, I have taken notice that several Detroit restaurants are getting national TV love. To name a few, Traffic Jam & Snug was featured on the November 28, 2011 episode of Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives on the Food Network. McClure’s Pickles, a Detroit classic, was featured on another Food Network show—The Best Thing I Ever Ate—on February 5.
5. Kim Kardashian’s Wedding (don’t worry…it’s on the “bad” list, too). While Kim and Kris didn’t exactly find marital bliss, the media ploy that was the August 20 spectacle delivered exactly what Kim (and the rest of her family) wanted: 10.5 million viewers, according to MSNBC. The blessed event was covered in a four-hour special on E!. Though the mother of the bride has adamantly claimed her daughter did not glean any financial benefits from the televised wedding, the 72-days of glowing media coverage prior to the divorce announcement certainly paid off dividends for the Kardashians.
And now, five PR blunders from 2011…
1. Kim Kardashian’s Divorce. The publicity created by the Kim Kardashian/Kris Humphries union was outstanding—for exactly 72 days. From there, everything has gone down hill for the reality star and her family. Accusations that the entire wedding was staged have been running rampant! The Hollywood Reporter featured this article, entitled “10 Signs the Marriage was One Big Hoax All Along”, citing that People paid the newlyweds $1.5 million for their wedding photos. While some say that all press is good press, I’m not sure Kim would agree that the 72 days of media bliss were worth the countless articles, television shows and radio interviews that question her character and credibility, including this post from Identity’s Andrea Trapani.
2. Penn State. The horrific sex abuse scandal out of the Penn State football program has certainly been no secret. Every major outlet in the country has covered the scandal, particularly the firing of legendary PSU coach Joe Paterno. With the court cases starting next week, this PR nightmare will take over our media channels well into 2012.
3. Casey Anthony. From ABC News to People Magazine, virtually every media outlet catered to our country’s strange fascination with the Casey Anthony trial. Several publications even wrote about the addiction to the case itself, further proving that our society gravitates toward bad news far more frequently than positive events.
4. Justin Bieber Baby Drama. America’s pop music sweetheart—something of a baby himself—was accused of being the father of a 20-year-old girl’s child. Bieber, who has been dating Selena Gomez since 2010, was certainly under significant scrutiny. On top of the fact that the allegation put a damper on the “perfect couple” role Gomez and Bieber have been playing, this type of misstep could have seriously impacted his fan base, which is mostly comprised of young girls.
In the end, a DNA test confirmed Bieber is not the father of this child, but his pure image certainly took a hit in the process. Though the allegations were false from the start, the rumor mill is hard to reverse. Odds are, Bieber’s fatherhood scare will likely be the main thing many remember from his otherwise impressive 2011 track record.
5. Charlie Sheen. What would a look at 2011’s most memorable PR moments be without recognizing the disaster that is Charlie Sheen? For the better part of February, March and April, the former Two and a Half Men star made front page news—primarily for his erratic behavior and association with several drug-related incidents. He was fired from the TV show as a result…and that’s when it really all began. His “winning” catch phrase and “goddesses” were born. The whole train wreck culminated when his concert tour, “Torpedo of Truth”, crashed and burned in Detroit where it launched. After months of coverage fueled by consumers’ fascination with Sheen’s bizarre implosion, the hype has officially simmered, but it will certainly be prominently featured in the “2011 PR Blunders Book.”
And there you have it. We’ll see if 2012 can top these PR hits…and misses.
What do you think were the most memorable PR moments (good and bad) this year?