Photo credit: Duffy Brook

Which brands landed on the naughty versus nice list?

As media is our business, we regularly pause at year end to review the effectiveness and value of public relations with optics on both PR successes and PR failures. We focus on moments where public relations successfully shaped or repositioned a brand or image, and considered those moments where PR didn’t quite hit the mark. Brands that successfully took the communications reins to advance corporate goals earned them a coveted spot on the “nice” list. Others, who suffered from marred brand trust, or ruined relationships, ended up on the “naughty” list.


To find out on which list brands landed, read on:




  1. Facebook:In March 2018, it was discovered (and reported) that Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica access to the privatedata of 87 million Facebook users. Say goodbye to brand trust right there, folks.By the end of 2018, Facebook’s woes continued amid claims that Facebook also provided big tech companies, Microsoft, Netflix and Spotify, special access to user data without users’ permission. In an era where transparency and brand trust are the most valuable currency, Facebook’s executive management failed in epic fashion and at the same time, blamed its public relations team. Really?
  2. H&M: When the Swedish multinational clothing retailer posted an image of an African American toddler modeling a hoodie bearing the phrase, “coolest monkey in the jungle,” the internet exploded with accusations of racism. The public backlash forced the retail clothier to remove the image and product from both the store and websites and a lingering damaged reputation which H&M has since done little to repair.
  3. CBS: CBS’s former CEO Les Moonves earned spotlight media attention after numerous reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault surfaced. Nearly 20 female coworkers courageously came forward as Moonves, in contrast, attempted to silence and evade accusations. To its credit, CBS smartly declined Moonves previously agreed upon $120 million severance package, but is a network still embroiled in allegations of misconduct and legal strife due to the questionable conduct from several executive CBS family members (Leslie Moonves, CEO; Charlie Rose, AM anchor and Jeff Fager, 60 Minutes executive producer).


  1. TIME Magazine and The Guardians of Truth: For more than 19 years,Walter Cronkite closed his evening newscast with a vehement “And that’s the way it is.” In a culture without social media, a 24×7 news cycle and a gluttony of cable news sources, the news was just that, trusted news. Everyone received the same information at the same time sans sensationalismand click-bait driven headlines.Today, journalists live a completely different existence as 2018 saw a global attack on press. Now tarnished by “fake news” connotations, the one-time valued seekers of truth report from the front lines despite imminent and in some cases, life altering danger without any veil of protection. TIME Magazine took back earned and well deserved trust and threw down the gauntlet by awarding its “Person of the Year” honors to the Guardians of Truth—a short list of impassioned journalists who not only lived, but perished, in an effort to report fair and untainted news facts. “In the process of just doing their jobs, our cover subjects faced dangerous threats in what continues to be a global war on the truth.” A+, TIME.
  2. ThirdLove:Make no mistake, all women are sexy and they know it. Victoria’s Secret CMO Ed Razek took direct aim at popular competitor ThirdLove during an interview with Vogue suggesting “We’re Nobody’s ThirdLove, We’re Their First Love.” In response, ThirdLove CEO Heidi Zak took on the self-proclaimed “800-pound gorilla,” penning an epic open letter sent not by snail- or email, but a full-page ad in the New York Times’ Sunday edition. In her letter, Zak condemned the derogatory comments made by Victoria’s Secret saying, “It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy. Let’s listen to women. Let’s respect their intelligence. Let’s exceed their expectations. Let women define themselves.” Mere days after the appearance of the ThirdLove letter, Victoria’s Secret CEO Jan Singer (a female) departed and was replaced by John Mehas. Game. Set. Match. ThirdLove.
  3. Diesel or DEISEL: The extensive issue of counterfeits and knockoffs does little more than decimate brand trust. In an effort to shine a light on the practice, Diesel CEO Renzo Rosso attacked it head-on when opening a pop-up shop in NYC’s SoHo neighborhood featuring Diesel-knockoffs of its own making, DEISEL. The brand leveraged this tactic not only to attract a more youthful demographic, it raised awareness around counterfeit clothing by deliberately misspelling the name. The reward for purchasers of the DEISEL brand was a special, limited-edition collection of Diesel (a la DEISEL) gear that both reinvigorated brand interest, and of course, earned eyebrow raising headlines. Touche’

We continued to be baffled by the dated, yet still popular belief, that public refers exclusively to news releases and media relations. PR is an interwoven discipline that impacts marketing, sales, customer service, brand reputation, and even water cooler conversation. When used strategically, PR can take a brand to new heights, address occasional faux pas, and even support businesses amid serious corporate crisis.  If you would like to learn more about how PR can become an integral piece of your overall business toolkit, contact us.