By: Courtney Fogle (@courtnxyfogle


Allyssa Murphy, VP of Chapter Development for GV PRSSA, joined us to speak about some of the most controversial moments in public relations for the 2018 year. We featured a few moments from each month in 2018. To listen to this episode, click here.


MSU – Larry Nassar

160+ girls were abused by Larry Nassar, USA Gymnastics national team doctor and an osteopathic physician at Michigan State University. These brave girls were able to take him down after sharing their stories, which gained extreme media coverage. The MSU president resigned and was then charged for lying about not knowing about the abuse. Read Glamour’s powerful article for more information about this case and how it was brought to light.

H&M Controversial Ad

H&M received backlash after an image from their website gained attention from their consumers. The shirt read “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle,” and was featured on a young african american model. H&M responded with an apology, however the controversy shows that corporations must be aware of cultural sensitivity while advertising their products. For more information about H&M’s response, click here.


Tesla launches Elon Musk’s car into space

Tesla launched Elon Musk’s car into space, shooting it to go toward the sun and then travel to Mars. They had a live cam to show this process, while playing the song “Life on Mars” on a loop in the car. Vox shares more details in an article on their website.

Kylie Jenner baby announcement

Kylie Jenner was absent from social media from the end of 2017 into early 2018. People were speculating that she was pregnant, though she never confirmed nor denied the news. She announced her pregnancy and birth of her daughter with a heart-warming video, gaining extreme attention on social media and in news conversations. For more information about this moment, click here.


Facebook/Cambridge Analytica

Facebook received harsh criticism after allowing Cambridge Analytica to have data on over 87 million users, which was used for political purposes. Consumer trust in Facebook plummeted, leading to Mark Zuckerberg testifying in Congress in April. To read more about this data crisis, click here.

March For Our Lives Campaign

Survivors of the Parkland shooting in February rallied for gun control, using their voices to initiate a global march in less than one month. They gained tremendous support via social media while also receiving backlash and threats from anti-activists, inevitably remaining true to their story and fighting for their friends and other victims of gun-violence. For more information, view Time’s article about this campaign.


Starbucks Discrimination Crisis

A Starbucks in Philadelphia caused a nation-wide conversation about racism after two men were racially targeted by the manager of the store. The men were arrested, sparking an outrage from people all over the country. Starbucks shut down 8,000 stores for racial bias training in response to the discrimination these men faced. If you’d like to know more about this crisis, click here or listen to our Starbucks PR Hangover episode.


Royal Wedding

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding was a huge moment for the world. Their wedding was aired on live TV, raking in millions of viewers to join in celebrating their special day. Before the royal wedding, news outlets continuously talked about Prince Harry and his bride-to-be, heavily promoting their ceremony.

Air Force Yanny/Laurel Tweet

The Air Force tweeted in response to a popular trend on social media. A sound clip was surfacing around the internet, some listeners hearing “Yanny” and others hearing “Laurel,” which caused quite some controversy. In attempts to join in on the fun, the Air Force tweeted an extremely distasteful and inappropriate response about their airstrike in Afghanistan. Read about their PR response to the backlash here.



IHop briefly changed their name in efforts to promote their burgers, causing a social media uproar. Wendy’s, Burger King, and Netflix got into the fun – poking jokes at the IHOb announcement. Business Insider says the company’s burger sales quadrupled after the stunt.


Kylie Jenner & Forbes – Self-Made Billionaire

Kylie Jenner was announced Forbes’ Self-Made Billionaire, causing controversy about whether or not she was truly “self-made” after coming from a wealthy family. To read Forbes’ article, click here.


MoviePass Financial Crisis

MoviePass’ poor communication caused a reputation crisis for the brand. After not disclosing information to their consumers, the brand is currently working to gain their trust. Read this article for a detailed explanation of the MoviePass crisis.


Nike ad with Colin Kaepernick

Nike issued an ad with Colin Kaepernick that sparked a political controversy, leaving consumers to question if corporations should take stands on social issues and political debate. Some consumers threatened to burn Nike products and never purchase from the company again. However, they received plenty of support for the inspiration behind their ad. Read USA Today’s article for more information.


Philip Morris’ Anti-Smoking Campaign

Philip Morris launched an anti-smoking campaign, despite being a big player in the tobacco industry. Their campaign received criticism from a U.K. cancer research center, claiming that the best way to get rid of smoking is to stop making cigarettes. Click here to read more.


Payless rebrand  

Payless created a luxury store in order to change the perception of their brand and see just how much people would pay for their shoes. Their new store, Palessi, was able to draw in luxury-lifestyle influencers to purchase the products. They plan to use the testimonials and video footage from this experience to promote their brand in the future, while also creating a conversation about culture. Check out this article for more information about this campaign.


Ariana Grande – Thank u, next

Ariana Grande’s “Thank u, next” music video was released in late November but remained the talk of December. It was a livestream, breaking records for the most views in 24 hours. The video gave tribute to some popular movies – such as Mean Girls and Legally Blonde. Get the breakdown of this video here.



Courtney Fogle is a junior studying Advertising and Public Relations. She is currently the Podcast Director for PRSSA and an account associate at GrandPR. Courtney is a singer-songwriter, with hopes to combine her love of music and PR so that she can work in the music industry managing artists and their brands. In her free time, you can find her listening to music or taking pictures of her cat, Oliver.