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PR … Company clangers from 2016 including Southern Rail, Google, BHS, Samsung, Mike Ashley and Yahoo

John Starr, managing director of Clareville PR consultants comments:

“While good independent advice couldn’t have prevented all these disasters, for instance the cyber attacks on Yahoo, it could have helped to avoid several of them.

“Before any new initiative, and particularly before responding to a potential crisis, it is vital to have an objective viewpoint on the proposed activity or comment.

“An independent adviser would first play devil’s advocate to the activity – what could go wrong with this? Is there a plan to prevent the problem or to respond if something goes wrong?

“If it is a communication, then the adviser would cautiously consider; what might customers, public or staff think about this statement or behaviour? What negative angle might they take of it?

“A cautious objective advisor asking questions that might not have been considered can play a vital role in preventing PR disasters.”

2016 has been an interesting year to say the least

There has of course been a plethora of notable political events over the past 12 months, but there’s also been plenty going on in the business world. With that in mind, here are some of the most memorable company clangers from over the year – from PR gone rather awry to colossal product recalls.   Courtesy of City am

**1. Samsung**Samsung permanently stopped Galaxy Note 7 production in October after fire reports (Source: Getty)

It had to get a mention really. Accounts of exploding phones are going to catch anyone’s attention and especially when it’s a company’s flagship smartphone.

After its Galaxy Note 7 phone was involved in numerous fires, the South Korean electronics giant issued a recall, but then reports started emerging of replacement devices catching fire. Samsung then announced it was permanently stopping production altogether.

It said it expected operating profit to take a hit of £2.5bn between the announcement and early 2017. Not how you want to start the New Year.

**2. Sports Direct**Mike Ashley said in September he was a “PR nightmare”

A memorable year for the retailer, though not necessarily for the greatest reasons, after dealing with scrutiny over pay and working conditions over its depot in Shirebrook.

The most memorable moments tended to involve founder Mike Ashley, such as going through asecurity check as he showed he was just like everyone else, only to unveil a wad of £50 notes from his pocket.

And when MPs actually visited Shirebrook only to discover they were being not so secretly recorded by a camera amongst the sandwiches.

Ashley initially alleged MPs had placed the camera themselves on a call with Iain Wright MP, chair of the business select committee. Wright wrote demanding Ashley explain himself, and in a follow-up statement Ashley said the board “did not authorise or have any knowledge of the possible recording device”.

He has also challenged MPs to a “live televised” debate at the warehouse. One to look forward to in 2017 perhaps?

**3. Yahoo**One cyber attack’s bad enough, but two?

Cyber attacks are becoming ever more common, from Tesco Bank to Camelot, but Yahoo had a double whammy for 2016. The tech giant said it had previously suffered not one, but two, rather significant data breaches, affecting more than a billion users. The scale of the attacks threw Yahoo into the spotlight, as did the fact the first hack took place in 2014 but wasn’t made public until September of this year while the second stretched back to 2013.

It also flagged question marks over the massive takeover by US telecoms giant Verizon. The company said in the wake of the second disclosure, it “will review the impact of the new development before reaching any final conclusions”.

**4. BHS** stores closed their doors earlier this year

After 88 years, the last BHS stores closed for the final time in August, after the retailer was placed into administration and failed to find a buyer. The aftermath has been turbulent, with previous owners Dominic Chappell and Sir Philip Green both receiving criticism for mismanaging BHS and failing to protect the company pension scheme.

Amid the storm, Green in particular has had a few choice moments: during a Select Committee grilling, he memorably told MP Richard Fuller to stop staring at him. He’s also had quite the back-and-forth with Frank Field, chair of the work and pensions committee. Green has accused Field of making “a number of highly defamatory and false statements”.

And nobody likes being doorstepped, but it didn’t do Green any favours when confronted by a Sky crew during a holiday to Greece in August, he threatened to throw the camera gear into the sea.

**5. Southern rail**This did not go down well with the public…

Dealing with on-off industrial action for months has been tricky for the train operator as passengerssuffered. And it had the idea of encouraging the public to voice their anger with the RMT union and its strikes, using full-page newspaper ads… Needless to say that went down like a lead balloon.

Within 24 hours the campaign was called off and Southern bosses sent an urgent email saying the posters in question should be destroyed.


**6. Google**So friendly-looking, surely so harmless?

Fools’ Day can be a fun way to get your firm a boost in publicity, but it can also backfire horribly. As Google quickly realised earlier this year, after adding a feature to Gmail allowing users to add a gif from the Minions film to emails.

“Gmail is making it easier to have the last word on any email with Mic Drop,” it said at the time. “Simply reply to any email using the ‘Send + Mic Drop’ button. Everyone will get your message, but that’s the last you’ll hear of it. If folks try to respond, you won’t see it.”

It soon became apparent it was all too easy to hit the button accidentally, and many had run into trouble as a result, including claims some had lost jobs as they hadn’t seen the replies.