The top news stories of 2018 also happened to be last year’s biggest PR incidents. This isn’t surprising as the media loves a scandal, much to the chagrin of PR professionals. Some companies were able to save face. Others, not so much.
The good: Following the Cambridge-Analytica data harvesting scandal, which received 94,400 media mentions in the UK press, Facebook suffered an enormous $37 billion drop in market capitalisation. Facebook’s shares plunged over the next few days, only stabilising once CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly addressed the scandal, spoke to news outlets directly, and promised to implement better security features. As a rule of thumb, the greater the uncertainty there is around a company, the more shares will drop. It was ultimately Facebook’s brilliant PR effort that saved the company; once the public and investors saw that Zuckerberg had things under control, Facebook’s share price stopped falling and began to recover.
The bad: Despite Carillion’s liquidation last January being the biggest business news story of 2018 (receiving 72,700 media mentions), it came as a complete surprise. News articles and broadcasts about Carillion before January did not mention the possibility of liquidation, implying that journalists and commentators did not see it coming. This is mainly down to Carillion convincingly masking how severe the situation actually was.
Carillion insisted that the rescue talks it was having with its creditors were “constructive”, and that discussions were “likely to involve the raising of new capital”. These assertions of course never came to fruition, but it was enough to placate news outlets and prevent panic. Carillion finally collapsed on 15th January, proving that not even the slickest PR tactics can save a company from liquidation.
The ugly: In February, it was revealed that Oxfam staff were involved in the sexual exploitation of locals in Haiti. The scandal received 24,300 media mentions in the UK press. Already a huge blow to the organisation’s perception, the situation was worsened by comments CEO Mark Goldring made in an interview with The Guardian. He expressed his inability to fathom the intense media backlash: “What did we do? We murdered babies in their cots?”. This was a severe PR blunder, contributing to a £3.8 million drop in income from the public for the 2017/18 financial year. Scandals as serious as this need to be handled promptly, and with the utmost care.
What were the remaining top stories of 2018? In an ever-changing media landscape, it is sometimes difficult to keep track of every major event that occurs. However, by using Signal, our AI-powered media monitoring platform, we’ve ranked the top 100 news stories of 2018 according to the number of articles published. Download the free report here for the companies, events and people that dominated the headlines last year.