The most shocking celeb PR disasters of 2020, broken down by PR experts

The right kind of publicity can help a star's career skyrocket and launch them into a whole new level of fame and fortune. Heartwarming charitable actions, admirable achievements, and buzz-worthy romances can turn a somewhat well-known character into a viral celebrity. On the other hand, when strategies to shine in the spotlight go wrong, the public can end up witnessing famous figures floundering and attempting to set things right in any way possible.

Frankly, despite the fact that powerful people and influential brands can have PR professionals handling their public images, some clout-catching plans fall flat; some attention-grabbing schemes backfire; and some publicity stunts have actually destroyed celebrities' careers

Fortunately, for those who are intrigued by horrible hype-related fails, Jenny Beres and Alex Grizinski, co-founders and presidents of Pink Shark PR, gave Nicki Swift some exclusive insight into the most shocking celeb PR disasters of 2020. Seriously, get ready to cringe!

Gal Gadot's COVID-19 message was out of tune

Many people will look back at 2020 as an unusually difficult year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which not only entails a potentially deadly illness but has also left people suffering in countless other ways — financial, emotional, education challenges, etc. 

"Imagine you've lost your job, health insurance, and nearly your sanity thanks to some new disease called coronavirus," Pink Shark PR's Jenny Beres and Alex Grizinski told Nicki Swift. "Good thing we have Wonder Woman Gal Gadot and all her mega-rich celebrity friends to save the day by serenading us with John Lennon's "Imagine" from their ginormo, $10M+ mansions. That is sure to help humanity feel better, right?" Er, no. But that's what Gadot did, and it's something that Beres and Grizinski called "an epic PR (and insensitive) 2020 fail."

Although Gadot may now regret the singalong, Grizinski says her "video was missing the one aspect that people needed to see most — community." Perhaps her "efforts would have hit home (and been more meaningful) had it been a community-based project." According to our PR experts, "During a pandemic, nobody wants to see and hear celebrities serenading the general public. It's not inspiring — not when celebs are locked down in multi-million dollar estate homes during an economic crisis." 

A better move? While a "universal call that featured her followers and people in quarantine" would have done the trick, the PR pros said the stars could simply "donate some money and resources to hospitals and affected families — 'Imagine' that!"

Jessica Mulroney had a 'major BLM-related f**k up'

You may know Jessica Mulroney as the former host of I Do, Redo, or perhaps you recognize her as Meghan Markle's bestie. However, things between the television personality and the Duchess of Sussex might be a little strained these days. Why? Well, according to Pink Shark PR Co-ounders and Presidents Jenny Beres and Alex Grizinski, Mulroney "had a major BLM-related f*ck up when she got into an ugly private-then-public argument on the 'gram with Sasha Exeter, a Black Toronto-based Influencer — while threatening Sasha's sponsorships (aka livelihood) behind the scenes." As a result, I Do, Redo was canceled, and Mulroney lost her gig with Good Morning America. There were even reports that Markle had distanced herself from her BFF.

Beres and Grizinski explained to Nicki Swift that Mulroney could likely have avoided the unfortunate outcome if she had stepped back before stepping up. "In a heated social exchange, the first move to make is to stop, drop, and get out of the DMs," Beres said. However, if it's already too late for that, then "the best move to make is a genuine apology that takes 100% accountability." That means "zero excuses."

The PR experts explain that "Mulroney's apology was offensive (even before we knew about what was going down in the DMs) ... because alluding to Meghan Markle's experience with racism inside her apology, is pawning off responsibility by essentially saying, 'I have a Black friend, I'm exempt, and I don't have to learn.'" Frankly, "if you're going to apologize, then apologize."

Ellen DeGeneres is 'glossing over the issues' on her show

Ellen DeGeneres might be known as someone who encourages others to be kind, but she apparently doesn't practice what she preaches. In 2020, the television host ended up apologizing after allegations emerged about a toxic environment behind the scenes of her hit talk show. And yet, Pink Shark PR's Jenny Beres and Alex Grizinski pointed out that the star's supposed remorse didn't cut it when it came to repairing her reputation.

"There's an old saying in business: 'The fish stinks from the head down.'" Get it? "This means that whatever is happening in your business, or in Ellen's case on her show, ultimately stems from her, and the responsibility falls on her to take accountability for what's happening and stop passing the buck," the experts told Nicki Swift. "It's sad to see Ellen glossing over the issues, instead of making this disaster a teachable lesson for everyone."

If it was up to Beres and Grizinski, the PR-savvy pair "would encourage her to take a few minutes of every upcoming episode and address each controversial point from a place of accountability, education, and reform." Grizinsky says DeGeneres is "missing a huge opportunity to impact the masses in a positive way, while healing the broken systems and morale in her own workplace."

L'Oreal fired Munroe Bergdorf 'for speaking out about racism'

If you heard about Munroe Bergdorf in 2020, there's a chance that's because "L'Oreal got caught red-handed bein' a hypocrite with a capital H during the aftermath of George Floyd's tragic death ... while putting out their obligatory anti-racism statement (and customary black square) that so many brands got slammed for," said Pink Shark PR's Jenny Beres and Alex Grizinski. According to the public relations experts, Bergdorf "came out with a big F**k YOU to the mega beauty brand on social media, disclosing to the public that she had been fired from the beauty behemoth after just a few weeks of employment — for speaking out about racism."

Although L'Oreal re-hired the transgender model, Beres told Nicki Swift the situation could have been handled differently. "Brands need to get off the social media bandwagon before they start issuing cookie-cutter public statements — especially if the statement does not line up with their current values and how they've been running their company and treating their employees." Additionally, the Pink Shark PR team "would have urged them to hire Bergdorf back in an executive role before coming out with a statement."

Prince Harry & Meghan Markle turned into 'total media pariahs'

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are one of the most famous couples around these days, in part, because they were at one time "the media's favorite modern royal love story," Pink Shark PR's Jenny Beres and Alex Grizinski pointed out to Nicki Swift. However, in 2020, the popular royal became "total media pariahs." Beres feels like the couple's PR team may have adopted a "very hands-off approach" that actually "helped fuel the negative media fire that caused the Duchess of Sussex to say goodbye to her royal duties and take the Prince with her."

"It's common to see this type of PR mismanagement with mega-celebrities, especially during the height of a media frenzy," Beres explained. In this kind of situation, "the media is doing the publicist's job" for them, she said, but that's "a dangerous position to rely on" because "how the media feels about a celebrity one day can (and does) change the next." Beres said the celebrity's PR team should be "shaping the narrative of their client's public image."

When it comes to Meghan and Harry, "by the time the Sussex's PR team stepped in to offer some damage control (family and charity-focused stories, baby Archie leaks, stories to help combat the blatant racism that Markle experienced) it was too late." 

But hey, if we're going to be honest, this isn't the first major royal mistake and probably won't be the last. Better luck next year!