If 2016 was a year punctuated by political tectonic shifts, sporting shocks and general media anarchy, 2017 has been more like a lucid dream.
Just as Nero fiddled while Rome was burning, we seem to have become almost impervious to the chaos that surrounds us. But then, with a snap election, Brexit rumbling on, Hollywood embroiled in scandal and Trump spending an entire year in the White House, it has been hard to focus on any one subject for long enough to really register the bedlam of it.
And amongst all of this carnage, some people have emerged with their profiles enhanced, and some with their reputations in tatters. Here are my PR Winners and Losers of 2017.
Jeremy Corbyn: Love him? Hate him? It doesn’t matter whether you worship at the altar of Corbyn or deride him as a loony, he has changed the rules in 2017. From speaking (and speaking, and speaking) at Glastonbury to appearing on Gogglebox to meeting grime musicians – Corbyn has found a way to engage the youth vote, and in the process he has the Conservatives scrabbling to find their own answer…
Georgia “Toff” Toffolo: …an answer that they may have just found in the new Queen of the Jungle, if you believe all that you read. “Toff” entered the jungle as just another Made in Chelsea name, and has emerged with her reputation enhanced to the point that she is being touted for a career in TV, politics and maybe even as a future Conservative parliamentary candidate.
Greggs: Christmas controversy baked to perfection. Greggs received backlash for their stunt of replacing the baby Jesus with a sausage roll in the nativity scene, but they sold out of sausage rolls the next day. Humour, press attention and plenty of sausage sold.
Meghan Markle: It wouldn’t be a full reflection on 2017 without the mention of the latest addition to the royal family, dubbed a “fresh burst of royal sunshine” by the press. Miss Markle and her PR advisors have handled her gracious stroll into the royal limelight seamlessly and in Meghan’s own unique way. She’s captured the hearts of the nation by being true to her unconventional self and like nothing we’ve ever seen before in the British monarchy.
Cards Against Humanity: It’s always worth taking the time to do something that will upset Donald Trump. So arise, Cards Against Humanity, which has bought a piece of the US-Mexico border so that Trump can’t build his wall. Nothing fake about this news.
Kevin Spacey: Spacey’s reputational house of cards has come crashing down in flames this year. He completely misread the public mood following allegations of sexual assault, put out a statement that shifted blame and was hugely damaging to the LGBT community, and alienated just about everybody in the process. American Beauty? More like American Horror Story.
Pepsi: Kendall Jenner and a fizzy drink. How wrong could things possibly go? Well, extremely wrong as it turns out. Pepsi’s attempt to tap into the atmosphere of political protest and engage in the Black Lives Matter movement backfired spectacularly, leading to a global backlash and the advert being pulled.
Zoella: A household name to every under-sixteen-year-old with access to YouTube, Zoella is amongst the richest online influencers in the world with a huge global teen following. Despite this, the beauty vlogger came under fire this year for taking advantage of her impressionable fan base by charging a whopping £50 for an advent calendar. Fans have criticised the YouTube star for focussing too much on earning a buck rather than making the engaging content that once made her famous. Perhaps Zoella would do better in 2018 to protect her credibility by ensuring she stays on the cute side of capitalism.
The England Cricket Team: One ill-disciplined off-field disaster after another, each handled as horribly as the last. The Ben Stokes fiasco has still not been sorted months later, worsened still by him farcically flying out to New Zealand. Throw in England’s complete lack of humour with regards to Jonny Bairstow “headbutting” Cameron Bancroft and Ben Duckett dowsing James Anderson in beer, and England’s ability to turn a non-story into a back page one is unrivalled. Oh, and they lost the Ashes.
United Airlines: The US based airline failed to navigate unfriendly skies in 2017, with a huge media backlash following the viral video of a passenger being physically thrown off a flight. The airline’s pitiful response was a PR disaster, laced with a defensive tone and prioritising it’s “company policy” over the simple human touch. Unfortunately for United Airlines, its name will always be tarnished with that scandal.
Phil Hall is chair of