Lessons from the Worst Communication Blunders of 2021 And What We Can Do About It 

A year ago, in the Jan. 2021 Image Patrol, we called 2020 a banner year for crisis communication managers. Every time you turned around another company got caught doing something stupid, and since so many of us were home with nothing to do but doomscroll Twitter, every misstep became a crisis.

I didn’t think it was possible then, but 2021 was worse.

Thanks to advertisers and the media’s focus on engagement as a key metric, crises have surfaced and been amplified at a far higher level in 2021 than they were in 2020. Because they bump up engagement numbers, the plague of misinformation, disinformation, rumors and lies skyrocketed to the top of everyone’s news feed and we all got angrier at everything.

And, since anger drives engagement and engagement bolsters advertising revenue, the cycle will just get worse in 2022. But there are lessons we can take with us into the new year from all the messes that CEOs made, and PR pros were asked to clean up.

Lesson #1: Culture and Crises are Connected
In virtually all the crises we analyzed in 2021 Image Patrol columns, corporate culture played a definitive role. Whether it was oversized egos,  institutional greed or inherent  naïveté, the way a company is run and the nature of who is running it, played a definitive role in how the crisis played out.

What to Do: If the problem is the CEO, and there’s no chance of that person leaving, you need to dust off your resume and find another job.

If the corporate philosophy is profit over people, greed over ethics, or growth at all costs you will, eventually, be dragged into the cesspool of crisis that a bad corporate culture creates.


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