The gaffes didn’t stop with the politicians. Rarely a week went by when PR Daily or any number of publications weren’t highlighting a brand’s misstep on social media.
Those missteps, however, were often brief flare-ups that burned brightly for a matter of days—sometimes mere hours—before fading into the ether of the Web.
Most incidents on this list go beyond political gaffes du jour and histrionic social media blunders. Many on this list represent mistakes so large, and sometimes so systemic, they shook companies, startups, and nonprofits to their core, derailed (or nearly derailed) billion-dollar political campaigns, and destroyed the legacy of an icon.
In descending order (from No. 10 to No. 1), here are the worst PR disasters of 2012:
10. President Obama’s first debate
In the run-up to the first presidential debate, President Obama enjoyed a comfortable lead over GOP challenger Mitt Romney. Most pundits agreed that if the president logged even an average performance, he might coast to a second term.