Krispy Kreme Klub AKA the KKK

Krispy Kreme organised a social media event that it shortened to KKK. This wasn’t even a natural acronym because one of the words had to be spelled with a “K” instead of a “C” to make it work. Of course, Krispy Kreme wasn’t the first to find it a catchy acronym.

We have to be amazed that no one working on the project red flagged it. Or is it a case where no one wanted to be the one to raise their hand and point out the faux pas?

Takeaway: Don’t put anything out there that easily calls to mind a legacy of deep hatred and racism. This also goes for Apartheid and the Holocaust. Don’t assume people won’t make the connection. Don’t make jokes. Don’t be insensitive.

Bic Pen offends all women

Who could forget when South Africa made the international news for all the wrong reasons? Bic South Africa made a terrible choice for a social media post on National Women’s Day when it told women:

“Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss #HappyWomensDay.” It was a poor judgement call that somehow no one picked up on until it was too late. And this isn’t the first time Bic was accused of sexism. Its pink “for her” pens in 2012 “designed to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand” did not go down well.

Either every single person working at Bic South Africa could do with taking public relations courses or they need to hire a few more women.

Takeaway: The internet shall brook no insensitivity, especially when women are maligned.


This PR disaster provided much glee for people who are not a fan of EL James’ 50 Shades of Grey series, and they are many, despite the massive book sales.

The idea seemed simple – A Q&A session with EL James on Twitter. But she and her work cut a contentious figure, and the Twitterverse being what it is gave us such gems like:

Takeaway: This isn’t the first time what was supposed to be light fan engagement backfired. Be sensitive to the controversies you might be treading through. And don’t underestimate Twitter’s scope for ridicule.

Donald’s Trumps lawyer doesn’t understand rape

Some might say that Donald Trump’s entire presidential campaign has been a PR disaster. A particularly noteworthy nugget actually came from his lawyer though.

Years ago, during a nasty divorce, Ivana Trump used the word “rape” to describe an encounter with her then-husband, although she later clarified that it was “not in the criminal sense”.

The Daily Beast dug up this bit of history and Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, reacted badly when questioned. He fumblingly said:
“You’re talking about the front-runner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as private individual who never raped anybody. And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse.”

“It is true,” Cohen added. “You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.”

That isn’t just insensitive; it’s blatantly incorrect, which is awkward coming from a lawyer commenting on law. Cohen obviously realised he didn’t say the right thing because he then went on to insult and threaten the Daily Beast reporter. You can read more of the drama here.

Takeaway: Keep your cool when talking to the press.

The general theme with most of these foibles seems to be: don’t be insensitive. True, the internet being what it is and our modern preoccupation with being politically correct can sometimes mean that we can get a bit too insensitive. But these PR storms are a bit worse than just being a tad politically incorrect.

They make you marvel at the level of obtuseness that a person or brand can be inflicted with. And they make you grateful to not be at the heart of a PR disaster.

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