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What was the biggest PR disaster for 2010? Was it the ‘dog sex’ scandal, homophobic comments by Stephanie Rice or technical turmoil at Qantas?


The Qantas A380 engine blast has been named Australia’s worst PR disaster of 2010, in the annual PR Disasters Awards by PR watchdog and blogsite PRdisasters.com.

The Canberra Raiders’ ‘dog sex’ scandal, the Commonwealth Bank’s premium interest rate hike and the David Jones sexual assault case were just some of the diverse incidents to make the year’s definitive list of PR gaffes. Celebrities Stephanie Rice, Matthew Newton and Lara Bingle also hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in 2010.

The Awards highlights the worst examples of business, celebrity, government, media and sports gaffes. For the very first time, the results have been processed to include PR disasters in both traditional and online media, including social media spaces.

Gerry McCusker, author of the provocative PR text ‘Public Relations Disasters’, who developed the Awards, partnered with Bree Dwyer from online and social media monitoring agency Cyber Chatter to run, analyse and calculate Australia’s biggest PR blunders, using world-leading Alterian SM2 technology.

To qualify as a PR disaster, the incident must catalyse sustained, negative media coverage for the brand, business or person at the centre of the story.

Top 10 PR Disasters 2010

  1. Qantas – A380 fleet consecutive engine issues and passenger delays
  2. Commonwealth Bank – premium interest rate hikes
  3. Labor Party – corporate backlash against the proposed ‘super tax’
  4. Melbourne Storm – salary cap scandal
  5. Stephanie Rice – homophobic comments posted via Twitter
  6. Canberra Raiders – Joel Monaghan ‘dog sex’ photo
  7. Virgin Blue – reservations and check-in system crash
  8. Matthew Newton – after alleged assault of then partner Rachel Taylor in Italy
  9. David Jones – CEO sexual assault scandal
  10. Lara Bingle – media relations following split with Michael Clark

According to McCusker, “We’re seeing that social media is increasing influence in determining the impact and duration of PR disasters. As citizen media clearly aids commentary and sharing of bad
news stories, it’s essential to have strategies to cope with online sniping and gossip.”

The ‘PR Disasters’ blogsite monitors real-life outbreaks of PR gaffes. The site is designed to help individuals and organisations avoid actions, decisions or strategies that can attract negative media attention, thereby damaging their reputation or ‘PR’ status.