A Few PR Disasters … and Three Worthy Force for Good People of the Year

It’s time for Force for Good’s take on the “of the Year” awards.

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follow First up, I have to agree with PRWeek’s pick for “2006 PR Disaster of the Year” – the Hewlett Packard spy scandal. Hard not to pick this hair-brained scheme and the bad soap opera that followed, especially considering the central role that PR didn’t play because of its exclusion from HP’s executive table (a fact first disclosed on this blog).

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HP had some very worthy competition for dishonor as ’06 gave us such PR debacles as Edelman-Wal-Mart’s flogging across America … offensive implosions by Mel Gibson and Michael “Kramer” Richards … the clumsy way the White House handled Dick Cheney’s accidental shooting of his hunting buddy (among other less-than-stellar moments from the White House) … the demotion of Pluto from planetary status … Fox’s how-could anybody-think-this-was-a-good-idea deal for a TV special on O.J. Simpson’s grossly pathetic “If I Did It” book … and, finally, Terrell Owens’ “publicist” Kim Etheridge’s confrontational, gum-chewing news conference where she explained that T.O. had not, in fact, attempted suicide, citing “25 million reasons why he should be alive” (alluding to the dollar-value of his contract with the Dallas Cowboys – I  don’t think Kim is going to be recruited anytime soon by MasterCard for a “Priceless” commercial).


Fun as it is to ridicule the deserving, it is better to celebrate the positively inspirational moments of the year. Here are three worthy winners of the Force for Good People of the Year 2006:


o       Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, two San Francisco ChronicleBonds_book_authors_2 sports journalists and the authors of the well-researched book “Game of Shadows” that blew the lid once and for all on Barry Bond’s steroid use. Sentenced to jail time when they refused to reveal their sources to a Grand Jury, Williams (left) and Fainaru-Wada stood their ground and will be forever remembered favorably for their principled stand. Anyone who has provided delicate information on background should thank these two for reminding all journalists of their profession’s code of honor to not burn their sources.


o       Retired Dallas Cowboy Everson Walls for donating a kidney 20061222_055208_1222wallssprings_400 to former teammate Ron Springs (left, with Walls), who has diabetes and has been undergoing dialysis to get ready for surgery. Not that this courageously selfless action really has anything to do with communications; call this one: “Actions speak louder than words.”


o       The Amish people of Nickel Mines, Pa. After a deranged milkman shot ten young Amish 061002_amish_hmed_2p_hmedium_5 girls in a one-room schoolhouse, killing five, and then killed himself, the families of the victims reacted in a manner most unexpected (to us anyway): Within hours, they not only expressed forgiveness of the killer, but reached out to his widow and children, bringing them food. Their sincere and heartfelt expression of forgiveness came through loud in clear in the few interviews they gave and opened for us a bit of a window into the simple goodness in their lives.

- Jon Harmon

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  1. TnT says:

    How about a nomination for Pope Benedict XVI? He could go in either category for his Regensburg address. One would think the Vatican PR machine would anticipate the zealous muslim reaction to one quotation taken out of context and edited it out accordingly.
    However, one could argue the Pope made a solid recovery and applied “force for good” when he explained and expanded but did not back down from his original quote. He followed up his principles with a diplomatic trip to Turkey, again explaining his beliefs without infuriating his audience.

  2. Mozom78 says:

    The continuing mess of U.S. policy in Iraq was certainly the PR disaster of 2006. Forget about the non-existent WMDs. If the intention is to root out “terrorists”, it’s a failure becuase more are joining the anti-U.S. cause than are getting “rooted out” (i.e. killed). The military battles are failures but even more so it’s a PR failure because instead of winning over the hearts and minds of the Arab peoples with the example of a flourishing democracy, the U.S. is acting like a bully. No one likes a bully.

  3. Bartly says:

    Bush is the PR disaster of the year (repeat winner). How this guy ever got elected is beyond me. Oh, right. He had some help from the Supreme Court. Can we just fast-forward to the next election and all promise to pay attention this time?

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