Marijane Funess March 4, 2014 | 09:40:03

PR Agencies’ Faux Pas: Art Imitates Life?

Anyone at a New York PR firm has experienced those “you can’t make this stuff up” moments. Whether dealing with a touchy tech reporter or a mercurial consumer PR client, things happen. But how good are you at telling the difference between true-life PR disasters and those occurring only on TV? Answers to “art” or “life” are below.

1. Mid-interview, your celebrity spokesperson admits that she knows nothing about the product she’s endorsing or the underlying condition that it treats.

2. A spirits company tries to leverage Martin Luther King Day with a press release touting “Drinks MLK would be proud of.” Ugh.

3. A new client informs you that one of the reasons a competing agency was not awarded their business was because they referred to the [client] company by the wrong name throughout the presentation.

4. A crime victim with no media prep but valid testimony in support of a Congressional bill is put on “the hot seat” with a reporter and badgered to the point of speechlessness.

5. A corporate PR spokesperson tweets offensive and racially charged updates from her company Twitter account.

6. You represent a highly placed political leader who murders her husband and your team goes in to clean it up. Literally.

7. The CEO of a large media company unexpectedly fires an employee at a companywide meeting intended to boost staff morale.

1. Art.  Patty Lupone guest-starred on “Girls” and gave this funny interview to Hannah at her new Conde Nast publishing gig.
2. Life.  Hennessy Spirits was called on the carpet for this example of very poor PR judgment.
3. Life.  A cautionary tale for all!
4. Art.  “House of Cards”’ Machiavellian Claire Underwood submitted an unprepared supporter of her bill to a tough TV interview.
5. Life.  L’affaire du Justine Sacco, a sad footnote in PR history.
6. Art.  Scandal’s Olivia Pope and team – Oh, the drama!
7. Life.  This wasn’t an old episode of “The Office,” but rather a PR gaffe on the part of  AOL’s Tim Armstrong.

Want to know more about avoiding PR mistakes? Check out our tipsheet here.

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