As Red Banyan turns the page on another productive year, it’s a fitting time to take a look back and revisit some of the biggest PR triumphs and disasters of 2016, as well as the lessons we can all learn from them.

  1. Panama Papers scandal

One of the loudest scandals of 2016 and one of the biggest data breaches in history, the Mossack Fonseca hack prompted a chain reaction of PR crises across the world, as the released records revealed how many public officials used offshore accounts to evade paying taxes. The situation was further exasperated by Mossack Fonseca’s haphazard response to the crisis. Lesson: Don’t skimp on professional crisis management when force majeure events threaten to damage your brand’s reputation.

  1. Target and Gwen Stefani’s PR success

Target’s collaboration with singer Gwen Stefani for the live recording of her “Make Me Like You” music video during the 2016 Grammy Awards was a huge PR success for both brands, generating over three billion media impressions. Lesson: A strategic approach and smart use of social media can greatly amplify the effectiveness of your PR campaign.

  1. Land’s End’s PR stalemate

America’s clothing retailer Land’s End angered both pro- and anti-abortion activists when it published and later removed from its catalogs an interview with famous women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem. Lesson: Know your audience and be very careful who you choose to be your brand’s ambassador.

  1. Cambell’s swift crisis response

Campbell Soup Company demonstrated a textbook execution of a crisis PR response when it reacted swiftly to a report revealing that some of its products contain a toxic chemical. Lesson: When it comes to your brand’s reputation, no issue should be taken lightly. Transparency and prompt communication with your stakeholders is key to a successful crisis response.

  1. Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall

When Samsung’s flagship phones started to suddenly catch fire in people’s pockets and explode on their nightstands (due to a problem with their Lithium-Ion batteries), the company was forced to recall some 2.5 million of its devices. The whole ordeal, however, was laced with confusion and breakdowns in communication for many of Note 7 owners. Lesson: You really can’t overestimate the importance of clear and effective communication between brands and their stakeholders in times of crises.

  1. Cincinnati Zoo and the death of Harambe

After the Cincinnati Zoo employees had to kill a rare gorilla named Harambe in order to save a 4-year-old boy who had fallen into its enclosure, the zoo faced waves of criticism from animal rights supporters. However, the zoo acted quickly by thoroughly explaining its actions in a detailed and heartfelt press release posted the following day and holding a press conference two days later to further clarify the incident. Lesson: When crises lead to a loss of life, acknowledging the tragedy, being transparent with the public and making yourself available to the media is crucial to mitigating controversy.

  1. Pokemon Go’s controversial success

Soon after taking the world by storm, augmented reality game Pokemon Go began to generate considerable controversy raising questions about the safety and privacy of its players and the people around them. Lesson: Prior to launching a new game or product, brands need to carefully consider numerous contingencies that may arise as a result of its use.

  1. Isaiah Crowel disturbing Instagram post

Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell got himself in hot water after posting a disturbing image on his Instagram page depicting a masked man slitting the throat of a police officer. Lesson: Brands, public figures and regular people alike need to be very careful and cognizant of what they choose to post on their social media. One bad post can seriously damage or even ruin your reputation or professional career.

  1. The Internet of Things cyber attack

Some of the biggest websites, including Twitter, Amazon and PayPal were shut down earlier this year after thousands of webcams and other electronic devices connected to the Internet (a.k.a. The Internet of Things devices) were hacked in a massive cyber attack. Lesson: Cyber security becomes an increasingly growing concern for companies worldwide. And since no brand is immune to a cyber attack, it is important to include these types of incidents in your existing crisis response strategies.

  1. Ezekiel Elliot’s Kettle Dive

The Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot prompted a 61 percent spike in donations to the Salvation Army after he decided to celebrate a touchdown by jumping into one of the charity’s iconic red kettles placed behind the end zone. Lesson: Great things happen when creativity is used to draw the public’s attention to a good cause.

We hope that you enjoyed reading our weekly updates and insights into the world of public relations throughout the year. We look forward to continuing serving our clients, helping companies achieve their public relations goals, as well as avoid and navigate their challenges in 2017.