Have you ever facepalmed at some corporate PR move and wondered what they were thinking? You’re not alone. Join Gabe Schmittlein and Rahul Parikh as they tackle public relations disasters in this week’s Anything but Politics. Transcript below.
Gabe Schmittlein: Hello, I'm Gabe Schmittlein.
Rahul Parikh: And this is Rahul Parikh.
Gabe: And for NBN Audio this is Anything but Politics.
Rahul: Where we talk about anything but politics.
Gabs and Rahul: Let's get political, political, not!
Gabe: Alright, so our theme for this week is going to be very specific. It's bad public relations decisions.
Rahul: Ain't that specific, so that means for this week we're going to be talking about three of the most controversial things that have happened over the past two weeks.
Rahul: Pepsi's been having some fun with advertisements.
Gabe: Lot of fun, real fun advertisements that will surely not piss anybody off.
Rahul: And United Airlines definitely not flying the friendly skies.
Gabe: As they say right?
Rahul: Of course, our good friend Sean Spicer.
Gabe: Friend of the podcast.
Rahul: Friend of the media.
Gabe: So for starters with Pepsi, they put together a pretty high production value commercial where they basically had Kylie Jenner.
Rahul: I think it was Kendall Jenner.
Gabe: They all kinda mesh together at some point, and so they had Kendall Jenner in sort of like a modeling shoot, and then there was this whole protest outside, eventually she sees the protest and she's like oh let me join this protest, so she takes off her wig and gives a Pepsi to a police officer, and voila! Racism is over.
Rahul: Hah! Too political but not really, hot take.
Gabe: Yeah hit me with this hot take.
Rahul: I think that you might think that this is bad PR for Pepsi, but I think this is actually good PR because their stocks have actually gone up since the incident. So I think it was all planned, they knew that we would just eat it up or drink it up.
Gabe: Because they're paying someone big money to market for them, so part of me agrees with you. That person probably put hours into this really high budget production, they got Kendall Jenner to do it. I think they knew what they were doing.
Rahul: They knew that it was going to stir the pot.
Gabe: Definitely stirring the pot, as we say in the PR business.
Gabe: So next up also in the news for some really poor PR this past week or at least recently was United Airlines.
Rahul: Right, and I just want to clarify because there's a lot of misinformation going around.
Gabe: Fake news!
Rahul: Fake news, I'm going to fact check everyone, so people are saying that United was overbooked and while flights do overbook this time it was actually that United needed to get one crew to another place and they needed four seats on the plane. And they offered everyone 800 dollars but nobody volunteered so they randomly started picking people, and this Vietnamese man was one of the people selected and he resisted. So they had the Chicago Aviation police come and escort him off, and this was at O'Hare, but he still resisted so while they were pulling him off he got a broken nose, two teeth lost, and he's going to have to have surgery for sinus problems.
Gabe: I'll tell you what Rahul, 800 dollars, that's about 775 more dollars than I have on my bank account right now so I'd probably take the money.
Rahul: Well I don't know if you read the article, but there was actually a lady who said she skipped three flights and made $11,000 dollars.
Gabe: Woah that's big time, she's the big winner here.
Rahul: Okay, going back, you can see where he got hurt, but I think the real problem was that they dragged him off even after he was on the ground probably unconscious. He says he doesn't remember anything and he might've had a concussion.
Gabe: Yeah they really dragged him, this dude's body was limp.
Rahul: They were not gentle.
Gabe: But I think you got to feel for the security guard in this case because sometimes you just have a bad day, you ever have a bad day Rahul?
Rahul: I have, do you know what the guards need? Bad Day by Daniel Powter.
Gabe: Bad Day by Daniel Powter fixes everything, it really does.
Rahul: Just the whole situation did not sit well with people.
Gabe: And he also did not sit well, beautiful, Rahul.
Gabe: So, Pepsi good PR, United Airlines not so much, they've lost billions of dollars in stock shares.
Rahul: We're kind of a financial podcast now with you throwing in these stocks and everything, I don't really know how it works. If you have any trading questions whatsoever hit me up because I've seen two financial movies in my life, Wolf of Wall Street, which is purely financial, and The Big Short.
Gabe: And I saw the trailer for both, so I'm kind of like the secondary expert, you wouldn't want me as your lecturer, but I could probably teach a discussion section.
Rahul: I could be your big F and Gabe could be your little F and together we'd be your mega F.
Gabe: Yeah, something like that, so our final big time PR nightmare of the week was Sean Spicer, who's actually the PR guy for the White House, right?
Rahul: Oh yeah he is, he's the Press Secretary.
Gabe: And we're going to try to tiptoe very carefully cause this is on the border of being politics.
Rahul: It is and we don't do politics.
Gabe: Just from purely a public relations standpoint this was less than ideal.
Rahul: Right, you have two things here, he started off by saying Hitler did not use gas weapons whereas Assad did, and then he did apologize.
Gabe: That's a PR 101 move there, apologizing.
Rahul: Yeah it is, so he took PR 101.
Gabe: I don't know if he made it to PR 102, though, and he definitely didn't make it to the 200 level courses.
Rahul: Because what happened right is he ended up saying, yeah Hitler did use weapons. I'm sorry, but Hitler did not use them against his own people, so that means Assad's was worse, he just trivialized the Holocaust.
Gabe: It's a PR hot take there, and it didn't go over too well.
Rahul: Hey, denial, PR move, does it work?
Gabe: I don't know, someone run a study on that, does denial work as a PR move?
Rahul: I would like to deny that this was political, will I be proven wrong?
Gabe: Yeah same, this was not political. This was not political, okay? I think we did a good job staying away from politics.
Rahul: Next up, in spirit of this past week's blunders, we thought we'd go back and look at some of the worst PR nightmares from throughout the years.
Gabe: Yeah, some classic PR nightmares.
Rahul: Some honorable mentions: the BP oil crisis, you've all heard about that one.
Gabe: Yeah, that one didn't go over well for BP. Hey, BP! Maybe don't spill the oil next time.
Rahul: Domino's, they had that famous YouTube video where two of the employees were putting cheese in their nose and pretending to sneeze on it before they put it onto a sandwich for one of the customers.
Gabe: You do that thing where you pretend you're a walrus, you put two breadsticks up your nose, or maybe you put it in your mouth. I don't know, it's been awhile since I was a little kid.
Rahul: Since you worked at a breadstick company, a pizza place. Couple more honorable mentions: Taco Bell, one of the franchises had rats going around the floor.
Gabe: Which is comparatively not so bad when you consider that there were also rumors that they had horse meat in their food.
Rahul: Oh, I remember that. They do have lard though.
Gabe: That's kind of like a PR turnaround for them, only having a rat problem.
Rahul: That's true. Some of my favorites: American Apparel during Hurricane Sandy said, "In case you're bored during the storm, 20% off everything for the next 36 hours." So that didn't go over well with people, especially the people who were stranded.
Gabe: Cuz they probably wanted more than 20% off, that's what I'm thinking.
Rahul: Gabe, you're so wise.
Gabe: 20% off is kind of a cheap move for such trying times, is what I'm thinking.
Rahul: I'd say second place is the Department of Defense, as a photo op, flying a plane right over the Statue of Liberty without telling the mayor of New York, and so everyone thought that there was another catastrophe coming.
Gabe: What I would say is you gotta do anything for the insta.
Rahul: Do it for the insta.
Gabe: I respect the decision there.
Rahul: Anyways, my personal favorite PR nightmare was when Urban Outfitters, this was in 2003, they sold a spinoff of Monopoly called Ghettopoly and one of the place cards was “You got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack, collect $50.”
Gabe: Oh, wow!
Rahul: Yeah, mhm.
Gabe: Ok, so we’re making a little bit of fun of--
Rahul: Of poor people.
Gabe: The ghettos--
Rahul: And drug problems.
Gabe: Okay, that's, woohoo, that's hot! That is steaming hot from Urban Outfitters. Wow! But you know, not every PR decision is a bad PR decision and I think we want to give credit to some of the good PR decisions that have been made throughout the years. So Rahul and I have devised a little game that we're gonna play, which isn't really a game. But it's gonna be called, we've decided it's called...
Rahul and Gabe: Best PR Decisions!
Gabe: and we're each gonna present our best PR decision of the past however long. So Rahul, you go first.
Rahul: I personally love the Wendy's twitter account, I wouldn't say they earn themselves many supporters, but the supporters that they do have, they really keep, because their Twitter is fire. They're not always mean though, one of my favorite tweets of theirs is "The Short One," @caseyarnold23, said @Wendys “Do you know of any good pick up lines?” And then Wendy's replied with a photo that said “You dropped your nametag” and it was just a photo of the Wendy's sugar packets that said “Pure Sugar.”
Gabe: I think I get it, it's a nuanced one.
Rahul: Yeah, it's a niche audience that it appeals to. Gabe, what's your best PR move?
Gabe: My best PR move of all time is one that was orchestrated by the United States of America, so you gotta give props to the United States of America here. The Moon Landing!
Rahul: Oh, correct.
Gabe: The moon landing, big time PR move, because everybody knows, now, that we didn't actually land on the moon, but back then, they were like oh, my God, this is incredible, we landed on the moon, and of course we were in a space race, race to space, with Russia, so we had all the incentive.
Rahul: Russian to space.
Gabe: Russian to space, and of course we got our best actors together, mostly just Neil Armstrong.
Rahul: Oh, Buzz Lightyear.
Gabe: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Lightyear, threw em on a set, let them work their magic, and of course it turned out beautifully.
Rahul: It did, I wonder how they pulled that off?
Gabe: Yeah, I do too.
Rahul: History's a mystery.
Gabe: History's a mystery, what we always say on this podcast.
Gabe: Shoutouts, our weekly shoutout section. My number one shoutout: umbrellas that aren't flimsy.
Rahul: Gabe is this one aimed at me?
Gabe: Yeah, Rahul's got a really flimsy umbrella.
Rahul: I do.
Gabe: Whenever we try and stand under it it breaks.
Rahul: It actually broke.
Gabe: It's been windy the last week and his umbrella hasn't been doing much for me.
Rahul: Sorry, Gabe. My shoutout goes to when your jelly equals your peanut butter.
Gabe: Oooh, I love that!
Rahul: For any returning listeners, you'll catch my drift.
Gabe: I love a good equal ratio. And our final shoutout of the week is to Lucas Jurgensen.
Rahul: Yes, thank you Lucas.
Gabe: Who's really our number one fan, he's one of my friends.
Rahul: He criticizes us.
Gabe: He criticizes us but he gives us constructive criticism, so this is more of a suggestion. Hey! Other people out there, if you got any criticism, you wanna write in any questions...
Rahul: You wanna yell at us.
Gabe: Maybe you want to yell at us.
Rahul: Maybe you want to demoralize us.
Gabe: Hey, send us a strongly worded email, something like that. You can follow us on SoundCloud and slide into our DM’s.
Rahul: Yeah, there's a link on our new Facebook page, where you can also send us hate mail, Anything but Politics.
Gabe: Or you could even email my old email address, at email@example.com. So yeah.
Rahul: Maybe don't do that.
Gabe: Just get in contact with us, and we'll try and do whatever we can to appease you.
Rahul: We will appease you. We might even pleasure you.
Gabe: Trust me, Anything but Politics:
Rahul: The pleasure podcast.
Gabe: We will appease you, we might even pleasure you.
Rahul: That's right. (Sound of a high five.) That was a high five.
Gabe: So that's the end of our episode, it's been a great old time, a grand old time. For NBN audio, I'm Gabe Schmittlein.
Rahul: I'm Rahul Parikh, and this has been Anything but Politics.
Gabe: Peace out!