When you want to put your business, products and services in the spotlight, it’s useful to get some good PR to help your brand get noticed. Getting good PR takes careful time and effort, and if it goes wrong, you could find your business in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

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Here is a closer look at four major corporate PR disasters and the reasons they went wrong.

Chartwells Free School Meals

Chartwells, the education sector catering firm, hit the headlines when a furious mother posted a picture to Twitter of the contents of their school meal box. It supposedly had a value of £30, and many people calculated they could actually buy the contents for just over £5. For a catering firm, this was awful food PR, with the contents of the box looking unappealing and not close to having the value they claimed. Ironically, other businesses generated excellent food PR opportunities by posting pictures of healthy-looking food boxes with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to show what they could provide for £30. If you want great food PR, make sure your products look appealing, healthy and appetising or you might find that the competition benefits more from the type of PR you get than you do.

Ratners Group

There have been lots of PR disasters, and you can read about more of them at https://www.thenationalnews.com/business/the-top-10-pr-disasters-in-history-1.51976. However, one of the best-known was the moment when Gerald Ratner was asked how his family-owned jewellery business could sell their products at such low prices. His brutally honest reply was “because it’s total crap”. The next day, all the newspapers covered the story, which cost the business millions and saw Ratner lose his job. The event was so well remembered that “doing a Ratner” became a colloquialism for making a PR gaffe. Although it is very important to be honest in your PR campaigns, you should never criticise your business.

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H&M hit the headlines for publishing an online catalogue picturing a young black child sporting a green hoodie with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle” printed on it. There were protests outside the stores in response, and H&M had to apologise. The company said that they would be running conscious and unconscious bias training for their employees. This serves as a reminder to all companies that it is important to be sensitive when you run your PR campaign.


Following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, one of the worst in US history and an environmental disaster, BP’s CEO at the time, Tony Hayward, made a statement to US reporters saying, “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back.” The comment caused outrage and led to BP receiving a lot of bad press. Remember the bigger picture when you’re in the spotlight and choose your words carefully. Your words may be remembered as an example of how not to do PR.