Best PR Stunts, Fails and Learnings of 2023 – Part One

Before 2023 is too far in our rear view, the staff at Landis shares their favorite PR stunts of the year…here’s Part One:

Don’t Let Your Communications be on AutoDrive

By Sean Dowdall

Robotaxis carry on-demand riders in an autonomous vehicle without a driver. Cruise is one of the autonomous vehicle companies doing live testing on the streets of San Francisco for the last several years. Unfortunately, Cruise had several high-profile mishaps (accidents, blocking emergency vehicles, driving into roadwork areas, etc.) followed by avoidable communications missteps.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The key error Cruise made was not being transparent with the public nor with state and local transportation officials about how and why these incidents happened. Undoubtedly, Cruise has the technology and protocols in place to learn from and prevent these events from happening again. To respond to each incident, Cruise should have: apologized, explained what happened, outlined how it will prevent these types of incidents and adjust its technology and testing protocols appropriately. Instead, the public responded by trying to disable the robotaxis from working and transportation officials pulled Cruise’s testing license. That likely didn’t need to happen and left one Robotaxi company operating in San Francisco that seems to be doing things right.

Damar Hamlin and the American Heart Association

By Robin Carr

Millions were watching Monday Night Football on January 2 (Buffalo at Cincinnati), when we witnessed in horror as

Photo courtesy of The Buffalo News

Damar Hamlin, safety for the Buffalo Bills, went into cardiac arrest after he was a hit making a tackle that stopped his heart.  Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillation (AED) were quickly administered, and emergency workers restored his heartbeat on the field before Hamlin was rushed to a Cincinnati hospital in critical condition. A timeline of Hamlin’s recovery can be found here.

Hamlin (who wears No. 3), became an American Heart Association (AHA) ambassador, dedicating himself to promoting heart health and launching the “#3forHeart CPR Challenge.” The AHA says the goal is to spread awareness about how CPR can save lives; in fact, the AHA has seen a 620% increase nationwide in page views to its Hands-Only CPR education resources. You can view his “Join the Nation of Lifesavers” PSA here.

(Note: Landis client, Centre for Neuro Skills, announced a strategic relationship with the AHA to provide education and resources for stroke-related brain injuries.)

2023 Hollywood Strikes

By Makenzi Jordan Rodriguez

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

We talk a lot about artificial intelligence (AI) in public relations and what this means for our industry and others in media. In early November 2023, Hollywood faced new challenges as AI threatened writers and actors alike. AI can replicate voices, appearances and movements, jeopardizing the livelihood of many performers. Writers perceived this threat as well, understanding that AI could replace them by generating new material, therefore kissing goodbye to the creatives in the dog-eat-dog world of Hollywood. The nearly four-month-long strike led to a prolonged period of unemployment for SAG-AFTRA and WGA members – a situation reminiscent of the hardships endured during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and SAG-AFTRA strikes lasted nearly six months, resulting in the largest suspension of American film and television industries in modern history. The key take-home message for entertainment industry workers and the public audience is simple: we need to safeguard individual creativity and emotion in all forms of communication, as these are characteristics that AI will never be able to replace.