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The Best PR Wins & Sins of 2021

As many of us looked to put 2020 behind us, 2021 posed further turmoil to daily lives. Despite the pandemic some people managed to win us over while others caused a stir in their big PR sins.

The Sins

 The year began with social media companies, trumping, well… Trump. Within the first week of the new year, Donald Trump was permanently banned from Twitter and indefinitely suspended from Facebook following the Capitol riot. Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat also followed suit with YouTube removing “thousands” of videos falsely claiming widespread voter fraud, including “several videos President Trump posted to his channel.” He attempted to tweet from the @POTUS account, but Twitter quickly deleted his messages while also suspending the @TrumpTeam account. For an oversharer with his platform removed, let’s spare a thought for Melania who we are certain would be amplifying her infamous hand swat.

By February, the social media giants took to our own shores, banning serial controversial chef Pete Evans from Instagram for overcooking his theories on coronavirus and vaccines. The evolution of ‘free speech’ and subsequent accountability is one of the biggest PR challenges social platforms are tackling right now.

Once again in their crusade for privacy, Meghan and Harry spilled the tea on the Royal Family in their tell-all interview with Oprah. Selecting a celebrity interviewer rather than a credible news journalist as well as their continual tone-deaf acts has torn shreds away from their personal image once again in 2021. From the timing of interviews to Prince Phillips illness then death to their private jets while advocating the importance of environmental consciousness.

Clearly keen for the snow season to continue, in September, a leaked video emerged of Nadia Bartell leaning in a little too close to suspicious white powder. Nadia took a break from social media following her apology to her followers with her next post appearing late October. While losing sponsors like JS Health and Hairhouse Australia, the video sparked a trend on TikTok #PutyourkmartplatesoutforNadia.

From her halo year of 2020, Gladys Berejiklian faced an unfolding year of public scrutiny. From her divisive decisions around lockdowns and restrictions to her abrupt resignation ahead of the ICAC enquiry into her relationship with Daryl Maguire and potential conflicts of interest. There are still pools of the population siding to her for her leadership through the pandemic, many were split or shifted their views as a result of the recent revelations. While Annastacia Palaszczuk continues to top media headlines for her harsh border closures – perhaps even she is starting to feel a little Christmas spirit most recently backflipping on a decision to force passengers from two Virgin flights to spend Christmas in isolation.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout was a PR disaster, with the Government failing to own the narrative and communicate effectively with the population such as CALD, the elderly and Indigenous communities. While some celebrities made headlines for themselves for their vaccination stances like Guy Sebastian and Sam Frost who backtracked and corrected their comments.

It hasn’t been all love from Georgia Love who faced a barrage of negativity for her social post deemed casually racist. The offending video featured a picture of a cat sitting in the window of a dumpling restaurant. “Shop attendant or lunch?” Georgia captioned the video with a laughing emoji. Realising the impact of her words, she made a public apology and went off the socials for a period, while reportedly being removed from on-air duties at the time.

While The Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That, became an instant ratings hit for HBO Max, becoming the most viewed debut on the network, the series did not perform as highly in reviews and social sentiment. As a series that was syndicated worldwide and followed by generations of women it’s not surprising the episode captured the attention of nostalgic fans. However the programme failed to ease the characters and keep them true to themselves amid a shifted world that comprises a global pandemic, gender, sustainability and inclusivity considerations.

The Wins

As we all endured ever changing restrictions that appeared illogical at times, one person we could rely on to make sense of it all was Jimmy Rees and his comedic Corona rules. So can I go to the cricket and watch 22 men playing with 20,000 supporters? Of course, you can Jason.”

On the flipside of the failed vaccine rollout, the power of social cause saw the rise of the vaccine selfie and influenced the adoption of this health measure. Hamish Blake, Hugh Jackman, Ada Nicodemou, Isla Fisher and Sylvia Jeffreys are just some of the faces we saw trending the vaccine selfie. While it is often recommended that celebrities steer from taking a political stance and stick to what they’re known for the sake of their personal image – having people with a profile influencing the community became an important element to helping people’s uptake.

After experiencing online bullying first-hand, TV and radio personality, Erin Molan saw the rewards of her campaigning efforts with the Parliament’s passing the Online Safety Bill. The Bill holds Australians accountable for online behaviour, abuse and trolling. Here’s to 2022, let’s hope it’s big and successful for all.

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Nicole Reaney, Director of InsideOut PR and founder of influencer agency, #AsSeenOn . Nicole has extensive experience in corporate and consumer PR and Communications and is available to comment on topics.


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