Get in touch with our team
Feature image for 22.04.2016


2 min read

Catherine Warrilow: PR Fails and What We Can Learn #BrightonSEO

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

Sometimes, PR goes wrong. That was the basis of Catherine’s talk.

Lego’s unfortunate character name

She started with an example from Lego whose unfortunately named Lego character caused a heap of PR issues.

Her advice?


  • Expect to replace bad PR with good
  • Forget to sanity check content before it goes out the door
  • Ignore the situation
  • Leave historical references
  • Let it stop creativity


  • Prepare a statement
  • Contact the media
  • Monitor search results
  • Engage customers

Waitrose and the user generation fail

A lot of you may remember their crowdsourced campaign ‘I shop at Waitrose because…’

Of course, their management expected people to say things like ‘the customer services are fantastic’, ‘the vegetables are superior’.

They didn’t say that.

They said ‘we shop at Waitrose because we don’t want to be surrounded by poor people’.

If you’re going to open yourself up to Boaty Mcboatface situations, remember:


  • Remove a campaign
  • Skip a work through of predicted outcomes
  • Underestimate the size of resource team needed
  • Be a corporate brand
  • Be rude to customers


  • Understand the audience
  • Have a planned content calendar and objectives
  • Maximise exposure
  • Showcase your social media team
  • Join them if you can’t beat them and laugh at yourself
  • Embrace the fun for a more positive perception

Hoover and the £100 vacuum cleaner

Hoover offered to give two free return flights to the USA or anyone who buys a £100 vacuum cleaner. It cost Hoover $48,000,000 and resulted in the whole senior management team having to resign.

So what’s the lesson here?

  • You can’t buy brand loyalty


  • Be lured by voucher deals
  • Leave people unanswered
  • Dismiss transparency – hold your hands up when you’re wrong
  • Forget about data capture
  • Ignore wider content opportunities


  • Reduce prize numbers to increase value for winners
  • Have a crisis plan
  • Maintain media relations

Bic Pink Pens for the Girls

Bic thought it would be really good to send pink pens out to big brands. Innocent Drinks responded appropriately….



  • Be an idiot
  • Enough said.


  • Use video
  • Use reviews as PR
  • Embrace the fail

Asda Top Signs of Being a Mother

Asda tried to tap into the mums audience, but failed due to the negative stereotypes that came out about mothers. They failed to focus on the positives and instead just made people feel bad.


  • Forget to test your idea with the people you’re trying to engage
  • Forget who your target media is
  • Assume the agency is always right
  • Use the content anyway just because you’ve paid for it
  • Overlook where it fits in – know your purpose


  • Start with the positives
  • Go in store
  • Create more content
  • Get influencers on board early on
  • Remember mum is always right

Key Takeaways

  1. Understand the customer journey
  2. Have a targeted methodical plan
  3. Keep it simply
  4. Have measured objectives
  5. Fess up if you f*** up