Trick or Treat: The PR do’s and don’ts of 2020

By Rachael Birt, Account Manager

With Halloween just around the corner, we’re celebrating the spooky season by taking a look back at some of 2020’s PR nightmares to make you scream, as well as some success stories that are creepin’ it real. 

PR Fails You Wish Were a Trick

  • Burger King’s Veganuary… or not

In a move to tie in with Veganuary and appeal to the growing market of non-meat-eaters, this year Burger King announced its new plant-based Rebel Whopper. Great idea, right?

Maybe not. With many customers excited to try the new product, Burger King had to admit that “the Rebel Whopper is plant-based; however, it is cooked on the same broiler as our original Whopper to deliver the same unique flame-grilled taste.” For vegetarians and vegans, this Veganuary surprise was a disappointment.

  • The Government’s ‘next job in cyber’

Looking closer to home, the cyber industry was involved in the government’s recent disastrous campaign to encourage people currently out of work – particularly in the arts industry – to retrain in different skills. The advert at the heart of the controversy suggested that a ballet dancer’s “next job could be in cyber”.

Though trying to promote jobs in the cybersecurity sector, the ad has been criticised for being patronising and insensitive to those working in the arts, suggesting that their years of training were a waste. Given how much time we’ve all spent in lockdown watching films and listening to music, I think it’s safe to say the arts are incredibly valuable to us all.

  • PureGym’s “12 Years of Slave” workout

To acknowledge October’s Black History Month, one employee at a branch of PureGym made the unthinkable error of posting a workout online entitled “12 Years of Slave”, playing on the film title 12 Years a Slave. The workout included 12 different exercises including push ups and burpees, and as if the name wasn’t bad enough, the post stated that “slavery was hard and so is this”. The nation was rightly horrified.

PureGym apologised profusely and made it clear that the company did not endorse the individual’s post, but the damage was done and it will take time before people forget this catastrophe.



PR Treats to Lift Your Spirits

  • #RateMyKFC brought food lovers together

Contrasting Burger King, KFC helped to unite the nation during lockdown. With restaurants shut for several months at the start of the pandemic, many chicken-lovers attempted to recreate the world-famous Kentucky Fried Chicken and used the hashtag #RateMyKFC to share across Twitter.

KFC quickly joined the fun, with its social media team responding to tweets with hilarious reviews, including: 

“This is the saddest thing I’ve seen and I’ve watched the Futurama episode were the dog waits outside for Fry. 3/10”

And even:

“We’re Kentucky FRIED Chicken, not Kentucky cook it in a lukewarm bath for 9 minutes Chicken. Mash looks nice though. 2/10”

Nicely done, KFC.

  • Barbie’s stand for diversity

On a more serious note, early this year toy manufacturer Mattel launched its latest line of Barbie dolls to “reflect the world girls see today”. The new toys include one without hair, to represent both girls that have lost their hair and those who choose a shorter hairstyle, as well as a doll with the skin condition vitiligo. Being represented is hugely important to young girls growing up, and this line – adding to the already vast range of Barbies that now exist – is yet another step in the right direction.

  • Ohio Department of Health’s ping pong masterpiece

Finally, the pandemic this year is too big a crisis to ignore, and the Ohio Department of Health made us all stop and think with its incredible advert to show how social distancing can keep us all safe. Viewed over 23 million times on its Twitter page alone, the video uses the simplicity of ping pong balls to make a striking statement. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so a video must be worth millions. Check out the ad for yourself here: 

With these scares and sweet successes in mind, avoid making any ghastly PR fails this spooky season. 

Happy Halloween!

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