PR Daily unveiled its list of the top 10 public relations disasters of 2012 today.
In creating the list, editors and contributors went through several drafts, culling certain events and adding others, until settling on the final 10.
Two notable incidents nearly made the list, but they were left off because deft communication helped quell the firestorms before they leveled a major corporation or further sullied an official’s reputation.
Here are the two disasters and how the people involved managed them:
JPMorgan Chase loses billions in bad trades
In May, JPMorgan Chase reported a trading loss of $2 billion—it eventually swelled to nearly $9 billion—because of a bad bet on credit derivatives.
The public howled, as some called for CEO Jamie Dimon to resign; the company’s stock plunged, and the FBI launched an investigation. At the time, we suggested it might well be the worst PR disaster of the year.
However, Dimon’s handling of the matter was textbook crisis PR. He announced the loss in an investor call, spending two seconds mentioning the $2 billion and the next half-hour apologizing.
In the days to come, he would address the media, sitting for high-profile interviews on “Meet the Press” and elsewhere. “We made a terrible, egregious mistake,” he told interviewers. “There’s almost no excuse for it.”
Dimon, who’s been praised for his crisis communications, reacted quickly to the crisis to help derail the negative press and keep his job. Whether he effected actual change in the way his bank does business is another story.
David Petraeus admits extramarital affair and resigns
Several people who weighed in on PR Daily‘s disasters list—including public relations counselors and journalists—insisted that the Gen. David Petraeus affair and resignation should have made the top 10.
The incident was certainly a mess. Petraeus, the CIA director and a hero of the Iraq war, shocked the public when, just days after the Nov. 6 election, he confessed to an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, and resigned his post. The media latched on to the story, revealing lurid details about the possible involvement of another general, the woman who made the affair public (and that woman’s twin sister), and the FBI agent who had befriended her, and more.
Despite the flurry of reporting, Petraeus handled the fallout with military precision. He announced his resignation, and the reason for it, on a Friday afternoon in a well-crafted statement that balanced facts and contrition. Then he left the spotlight, and remained gone.
Petraeus dodged a second wave of criticism—alleging that he resigned in order to avoid testifying before a congressional panel about the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya—by going ahead and testifying a week after his resignation.