Posts Tagged ‘United States’


From corporate social fails to “pink slime” scandals to Apple launching a widely hated mapping feature, 2012 was filled with epic PR disasters.While many of the public relations nightmares were due to typical company failings, others were unique to the digital era.

All it takes is a single employee’s bad tweet — like a Burger King staffer standing in a tub of lettuce — to send corporate headquarters into damage control mode.

We’ve collected 10 of the worst PR disasters of the year.

10. KitchenAid tweeted about Obama’s dead grandma.

10. KitchenAid tweeted about Obama's dead grandma.

During one of the presidential debates, KitchenAid tweeted to its 24,000 fans that “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics”.

KitchenAid immediately deleted the quote and tweeted an apology.

A spokesperson said that “The tasteless joke in no way represents our values at KitchenAid, and that person won’t be tweeting for us anymore.”

9. American Apparel exploits Hurricane Sandy.

9. American Apparel exploits Hurricane Sandy.

American Apparel

People were outraged when American Apparel used Hurricane Sandy — a storm that killed over 100 people and initially left 8 million without power — as an excuse to sell merchandise.

The retailer were offered a 20 percent off sale if they typed “SANDYSALE” in the online checkout “in case you’re bored during the storm.”

American Apparel decided to ignore the PR disaster and didn’t apologize.

Gap, on the other hand, also did a Sandy sale and then tweeted apologies for offending people.

8, The NRA’s magazine posted an insensitive tweet after the Aurora shooting.

8, The NRA's magazine posted an insensitive tweet after the Aurora shooting.

Hours after the nation learned about the tragic Aurora shooting that left 12 people dead at a late night showing of “The Dark Night Rises,” American Rifleman, a magazine for the NRA, tweeted: “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?”

The tweet went up at 9:20 am EST and was taken down three hours later.

A spokesman for the NRA stated, “A single individual, unaware of events in Colorado, tweeted a comment that is being completely taken out of context.”

PR lesson: be careful with pre-scheduled tweets.

7. Apple Maps was so bad, the CEO had to issue a public apology.

7. Apple Maps was so bad, the CEO had to issue a public apology.

When Apple banished Google Maps from the iPhone in September, consumers were concerned.

Apple’s own maps app turned out to be riddled with errors, and didn’t even include public transportation mapping.

CEO Tim Cook had to issue a public apology, conceding that the maps “fell short” before suggesting users download competitors’ products from the Apps store. Cook specifically called out Bing, MapQuest, or going to Nokia and Google’s website.

The product manager who oversaw the maps team was fired months later.

6. The Internet exposes a Burger King employee who stood in tubs of lettuce.

In July, a Burger King employee thought that it would be a fun idea to post pictures on 4Chan of him standing (shoes on) in two large tubs of lettuce. The caption read: “This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King.”

Within minutes, other 4Chan members tracked down the culprit.

Burger King addressed the PR disaster in a public statement regarding the chain’s “zero-tolerance policy against any violations such as the one in question” and fired three employees for the incident.

5. A Taco Bell employee tweeted a picture of himself urinating on a plate of nachos.

Even though the Indiana worker assured people that the plate was going to be thrown out anyway, Taco Bell dealt with the crisis immediately by firing him.

4. Chick-fil-A’s president bashes gay marriage.

Chick-fil-A caused quite a stir when its president publicly came out against gay marriage.

Dan Cathy, who also serves as the COO, told “The Ken Coleman Show”: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”

This caused a national outcry — some for, and others against. Citizens held boycotts and kiss-in protests at local chains, and mayors threatened to ban the chain from their cities. (Which mayors can’t actually do.)

More controversy arose when Jim Henson Co. slammed Chick-fil-A for its public stance, and then Jim Henson toys were prematurely pulled from the chicken chain.

3. “Pink Slime” is discovered.

In March, ABC News released a series of reports raising concern over a hamburger ingredient dubbed  “pink slime,” a mechanically separated and disinfected beef product officially known as lean finely textured beef.

People began petitioning to get supermarkets, restaurants, and schools to all stop carrying the slime, even though various consumer experts said it was safe. This PR disaster led to massive layoffs.

BPI eventually filed a lawsuit against ABC for $1.2 billion for allegedly making about 200 “false and misleading and defamatory” statements about the product.

2. McDonald’s #McDStories Twitter campaign gets out of control.

McDonald’s January Twitter campaign asked readers to tweet their own special #McDStories.

The problem: people used the hashtag for horror stories like: “Fingernail in my BigMac” and “Hospitalized for food poisoning after eating McDonalds in 1989. Never ate there again and became Vegetarian. Should have sued.”

McDonald’s had no way to control what people tweeted, and all the stories showed up whenever anyone clicked the hashtag.

McDonald’s social media director Rick Wion emailed BI that:

While #meetthefarmers was used for the majority of the day and successful in raising awareness of the Supplier Stories campaign, #mcdstories did not go as planned. We quickly pulled #mcdstories and it was promoted for less than two hours.

Within an hour of pulling #McDStories the number of conversations about it fell off from a peak of 1600 to a few dozen. It is also important to keep those numbers in perspective. There were 72,788 mentions of McDonald’s overall that day so the traction of #McDStories was a tiny percentage (2%) of that.

With all social media campaigns, we include contingency plans should the conversation not go as planned. The ability to change midstream helped this small blip from becoming something larger.

1. Penn State covers up the Sandusky scandal.

1. Penn State covers up the Sandusky scandal.


Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged and later convicted of repeated counts of child molestation while at Penn State.

Although the scandal was unveiled in 2011, the university felt the full fallout in 2012 when the Freeh report stated that Joe Paterno and the administration covered up Sandusky’s abusesMajor companies pulled sponsorships of the program.

Part of the PR disaster was due to Penn State’s initial difficulty addressing the problem. Pulitzer-winning stories in The Patriot-News of Harrisburg initially uncovered the scandal in March 2011. But Penn State remained tightlipped. PR firm Ketchum was hired in November of 2011, and the school hired Edelman and La Torre for crisis management in April 2012. The school pledged to spend $208,000 a month for 12 months on PR support, but the damage was done.

Read more:



Illustration by Peter Oumanski


Now that the campaign is almost over, it’s clear that this presidential cycle was all about the economy. Just not the economy we’re actually entering. This thought crossed my mind during the second presidential debate as Mitt Romney declared that, if elected, he would label China as a currency manipulator. It was a rehearsed entreaty meant to appeal to thousands of frustrated manufacturing workers and their bosses in Rust Belt states. But it mainly confirmed how far we are from understanding our place in the new global economy.

Adam Davidson translates often confusing and sometimes terrifying economic and financial news.

Not that long ago, the U.S. had that global economy all to itself. From the 1950s to the 1980s, it was the world’s dominant producer and consumer. In countries spanning Europe to Latin America, and throughout Asia, success was determined by how well they could siphon off a bit of this incredible growth. Things began to change in the 1970s, however, when Japan and Germany started making cars and factory equipment and electronic gadgets that beat their American competitors. And for the next 30 years, the U.S. struggled to adjust to increasingly competitive Asian and Latin American producers. But as long as it remained the world’s largest consumer market, the U.S. maintained lots of leverage. The government persuaded Pakistan to join the global war on terror, for instance, partly by promising its sock manufacturers duty-free access to its market.



Going to a foreign country? You can study up on Berlitz tapes or Rosetta Stone all you want, but in any culture, the verbal particulars tell only part of the story. Subtleties of tone and posture make up a large part of communication, even between fellow countrymen. The language barrier just puts even more pressure on nonverbal expression. So before you flip the Burmese version of the bird, or try to give a German prime minister a friendly shoulder rub, you should try to have a clear idea of the rubric of understanding through which your gestures will be interpreted, the standards of behavior to follow. Here are some of the most costly slip-ups you’ll want to avoid, most of which would be totally unremarkable back home:

  • Don’t point with your finger.

    This is probably the single most likely body language mistake to get travelers in trouble, because it’s very widely considered rude in many different countries … while in those cultures that lack such a taboo, it hardly occurs to us that anyone would find such a clear and expedient gesture vulgar. After all, we call it an “index” finger precisely because it’s used to, well, indicate things.

    The best alternative is probably to gesture with an open-palmed hand, which makes sense, as it has the connotation of being inviting, rather than potentially accusatory. This latter issue may also be why some cultures do make a distinction between pointing qua pointing and pointing at somebody. It may help to think of your finger as a make-believe pistol: never point it at another human being, even if it’s not loaded.

  • Don’t eat (or do any number of other things) with the left hand.

    Those of us who are southpaws may find this offensive, but in many lands there remains a strong prejudice in favor of the right hand and against the left. Most famously, in India and throughout the Muslim world, the left hand has always been designated for, ahem, certain necessary-but-unpleasant tasks. This is not some xenophobic urban legend, but a simple historical reality: mankind had to develop a lot of other ways to clean up before Cottonelle® came along. Indeed, many people still see our beloved modern convenience as less “clean” and prefer the old-fashioned method.

    Even in countries where Western toilet habits are firmly (but softly?) established, a certain spiritual unease about the left hand is common. The transgressive form of Tantra, for instance, the (rough) Buddhist equivalent of black magic, is called vamachara, “left-handed attainment.” We in the West have our own history of superstitions about handedness; it seems practically universal. Probably it’s that most people are genetically inclined to be right-handed, and we view the unusual as suspicious. If you do use your left hand to gesture, eat, or pass an item to someone, they probably won’t suspect you of sinister intentions or leftist agitation, but they may very well find your behavior gauche.

  • Don’t do the OK sign.

    You know that gesture you make where you join your index finger and thumb, to signal OK? Well, in some places, it’s very much not OK, OK? It means “money” in Japan, signals the “evil eye” in the Middle East, is an aggressive gesture in Brazil, and in Greece or Turkey it’s even more offensive (denoting a certain body part that’s already entered the discussion here, and which people don’t typically like to be called). Unfortunately, the closest American equivalent, a thumbs-up, is also used in certain parts of Asia and the Middle East as a shove-it gesture akin to flipping the bird.

  • No come-hither gestures.

    That curling finger or fingers indicating that you want somebody to head over your way … you can perhaps see how this one could be taken as a bit too forward, even in our own permissive society. There’s something presumptuous, sensual, and potentially creepy about it. But in Asia it’s much worse: it’s considered an insult, a gesture appropriate only for beckoning animals. To Singaporeans it even symbolizes death. Yikes. Considering that Singapore is a common business destination with strict rules and some very colorful ideas about Hell, you might not want to come across as the Grim Reaper.

  • The infamous chin flick.

    In parts of Europe, especially Italy, the gesture of flicking the top of one’s hand out from under one’s chin is a common gesture of defiance or disregard: not obscene, exactly, but very dismissive. On occasion, an innocent scratch of the chin can be mistaken for this contemptuous maneuver.

  • Be careful where you point your feet.

    In many cultures, the feet are considered an unclean body part due to contact with the ground. (Thus the grave insult of shoe-throwing, once directed at George W. Bush, who, one must admit regardless of one’s political leaning, managed to dodge both shots with panache.) Avoid pointing your toes or soles at another. Never throw your feet up on a desk, unless you’re back in America, at your own desk, and you’re a cigar-smoking tycoon with a monocle.

  • V is not always for victory.

    Take the two-fingered victory sign made famous by Churchill (or the hippie peace sign). Now turn it around. What do you get? The number two? Not if you’re in Britain, which is among the countries where this is the equivalent of our middle-finger salute. So don’t try to order two baskets of fish and chips this way, unless you want a scalding cod across your face.

  • Nothing, not even nodding, is universal.

    If you smile at me, I will understand, cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language.” That’s an uplifting thought (even in a song that seems to be about survivors of a nuclear holocaust), but is it true?

    To respond with another, older song, “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” Whether we like it or not, in this tower of Babel we call Earth, there’s such a huge diversity of cultures that even a smile doesn’t always mean the same thing. Grin at strangers in Prague or Seoul and they may peg you as a lunatic.

    Meanwhile, in Bulgaria they shake their heads “yes” and nod “no.” To indicate “yes” in India, you shake your head left to right in a “bobble” motion.

So what’s a poor confused traveler to do? First and foremost, just do your homework. For each country you visit, at least skim a guidebook. Is that so much to ask? You don’t want to come across as the famous “ugly American.” When in doubt, reticence is best. Speak and move as unassumingly as possible, especially when it comes to hand gestures.

And do less talking and more listening (and observing). You can take your cues from how others carry themselves. Go by the ancient saying attributed to St. Ambrose: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Unless what the Romans do is flick their chins at you, in which case, it’s probably best not to reciprocate. Capisci?



We’ve all heard how badly newspapers and the Postal Service are hurting. Even if we didn’t hear about it in the news all the time, we would have to assume they can’t be doing too great. After all, when was the last time you licked an envelope or got black ink on your fingers? On the other hand, unless we intentionally seek out info on it, the suffering of some other industries may escape us. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has made its predictions of which industries will decline the most by 2020 in both output and employment. We broke down 10 of the ones that surprised us.

  1. Defense:

    One would think even hawks could agree that military spending that accounts for 58% of spending in the entire world is, dare we say, enough already. With the passage of 2011′s Budget Control Act, Congress finally acknowledged that the military could afford to make some sacrifices to help meet a $1.2 trillion goal of federal spending cuts over the next 10 years. The news is not welcome for the civilian defense industry (what the BLS calls “general federal defense government compensation”), which is predicted to lose $16.5 billion in output and just shy of 50,000 jobs by 2020.

Pekka Ylä-Anttila

By Pekka Ylä-Anttila

Original news available at

For anyone interested in economic change, Finland is an interesting case for two reasons. First, Finland has transformed itself in a relatively short period from a resource-intensive economy into a knowledge-based one. Second, the transformation coincided with major macro economic crisis in the early nineties – recovery from a deep recession and major structural transformation took place simultaneously. Among the OECD countries Finland is one of the late industrializing ones. Industrialization process really took off in the latter part of the nineteenth century, but the income per capita level remained roughly one half of that in the Great Britain – the leading economy at that time.

Still, during the post war decades, up the 1960s, Finland was in the catching–up phase of development — relying mainly on imported technologies and abundant forest resources. Physical investment intensity was among the highest in Europe, and foreign trade, financial markets and capital movements were heavily regulated.

Today, Finland is not only one of the most open economies in the world, but also one of the leading knowledge-based economies. Research and development expenditure in relation to GDP is one of the highest in the world – about 3,5 %. Higher education enrollment is well above the OECD average; number of researchers in relation to population is higher than in any other country. During the 1990s the economy oriented heavily towards ICT (information and communication technologies), and by the end of the decade the country was the most ICT specialized economy in the world.