Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

It’s early in the year, but already 2018 is off to a big start in the world of public relations crisis. There’s surely many more to come, but here are four of the biggest PR crises we’ve seen thus far.

Tide “candy” Pods

Tide Pods

Talk about a PR crisis coming out of nowhere. Laundry detergent brand Tide, which makes a line of tri-colored detergent pods, could never imagined that people would sign up to try eating one of them. It might’ve been understandable if the ensuing videos came from 10-year-olds, but it was teens and twenty-somethings doing it — who were then getting sick. What did they think would happen? All the same, Tide and other companies with similar products suddenly found themselves facing a PR crisis, albeit not of their making. The problem is that these stupid videos have brought to light the reality that young kids have tried eating them because they look like candy. Their challenge now is to figure out how to fix the problem.

Tarantino’s dueling controversies

Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino is not generally known for being a conformist. In general, the film director is also not likely to apologize for the content in his movies, his actions or his attitude. Despite that, or maybe because of it, he’s done quite well in his career, but the celebrity lifestyle seems to be changing, especially in the last year, and especially for many powerful men in the film industry. Tarantino was the subject of two separate controversies that recently left him actually apologizing, both involving incidents from his past. The first involved Uma Thurman, of “Kill Bill fame,” who explained how Tarantino had talked her into doing what turned out to be a dangerous stunt, even though she expressed serious doubts beforehand. As all of that came to the public’s attention, and Tarantino was trying to apologize, an old Howard Stern 2003 interview came to light where Tarantino made statements that seemed to defend Roman Polanski’s behavior in the 1970s where he’d been accused of — and later admitted to — having sex with a 13-year-old girl. He ended up making a dual apology … on Thurman’s part, she graciously accepted it.

30 seconds of dead air

NBC

A half-minute of dead air on television is a long time, and when it happens during the broadcast of the one of the biggest sporting events of the year, the Super Bowl, it’s longer than eternity. It’s also one of the few times that millions tune in to a program to watch the ads, which are eagerly anticipated almost as much as the show itself. So, when NBC’s Super Bowl broadcast went totally black for almost 30 seconds, people noticed. Granted, if it had happened 20 years ago, viewers might have just waited it out, but not in the age of social media. Worse still, apparently NBC wasn’t even aware of it until the complaints had all been registered. Oops!

Flushing hamsters

Hamster

Belen Aldecosea said she’d confirmed with Spirit Airlines that she could bring her pet hamster, Pebbles, on the plane with her during a flight to her home in Florida from Baltimore to deal with a medical procedure. When the college student arrived at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, however, she learned that was not okay. The problem was, what could she then do with her “emotional-support pet?” Aldecosea claims a Spirit employee suggested she flush the hamster down a toilet, and since she was on a ticking clock for a medical procedure at the end of her flight, that’s what she ended up doing. The airline denies they made that suggestion. No one wins in this PR crisis … especially not the hamster.

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Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, whose PR agency does extensive crisis PR work.