For a communications professional, watching a PR crisis hit is kind of like watching Dr Pimple Popper videos. It’s incredibly uncomfortable, yet you just can’t seem to look away.

A PR crisis occurs when an event or circumstance (whether anticipated or not) affects your brand in a negative way, thus threatening your reputation or image in the public sphere. For a business, this could be anything, including a product contamination or recall, criminal allegations, or simply, a poorly executed media interview.

Thankfully at Agent99, while we provide our clients with crisis communications support, there are many brands and individuals out there in 2022 who did not have proper measures in place…and so, when crisis hit, the whole world knew about it!

So, join us as we stare into the abyss and look back through some of the biggest PR disasters in 2022.


The Royal Family have definitely seen their fair share of media headlines over the years. Whether it’s Fergie being toe-sucked, Prince Andrew being broiled up in sex scandals with Jeffrey Epstein, or King Charles’ Tampon-Gate incident, The British Royals are always dominating the news cycle whether they try or not. So, when Harry and Meghan revealed they were getting married, having a baby, exiting the Royal Family, moving to the States, interviewing with Oprah, selling their story to NETFLIX, of course, you could just anticipate another PR crisis was heading in the Royal’s direction.

For an organisation, having a disgruntled current or ex staff member go rogue and do media interviews can be detrimental to your brand. The reason this can create a PR nightmare, is because you have no control over what this individual might say or do to harm your brand, and you will only find out the extent of what they will say when the interview airs (along with the rest of the world).

For Harry and Meghan, they have offered up another headline yet again with their $100 million deal to sell “their side of the story” to NETFLIX in a 6-part documentary series. In yet another blow to the Royal Family, allegations from the couple included:  

  • The Queen demanded she curtsy for her
  • Her engagement interview was a fully scripted “reality show” by the Royal Family
  • Prince William screamed at Harry in front of the family

And that’s just three episodes in…

Sadly, while this does create a bit of PR frenzy for the Royals, unfortunately the way media have continued to latch onto Harry and Meghan, many headlines from around the world still paint them as the villains in their own story. So, the question must be asked, is it a PR crisis for the Royals, or another PR crisis for themselves they now have to worm their way out of?


Well, 2022 was a great year to switch mobile plans, because unfortunately those who were serviced by Optus faced once of the biggest data privacy breaches in history! In September this year, 10 million Optus customers across Australia had their data stolen by internet hackers including names, birthdays, contacts, licence numbers and in some cases, passport and banking numbers.

If this wasn’t already a blow to people who were serviced by Optus, to make matters worse, they weren’t even told about the breach.

Rather than specifically contacting those who had their private data breached, they simply put statements on their websites and socials, allowing media to pick up the story first and let misinformation spread, while customers panicked and had no clue whether their information had been stolen. To this day, some of my colleagues on the team (who had their data stolen) have not received any update about where their data leaked and no compensation or remuneration for the error. 

Look, whilst probably not the best way to handle a big PR storm this like, I do genuinely feel for the PR team here, many of whom I’m sure didn’t sleep for days and were working around the clock to find solutions…it maybe just wasn’t the right one.


Okay, so I could write a whole blog just on all the various PR missteps from Qatar at this year’s World Cup. However, Argentina won, so as a proud Argentine-Australian, I am willing to overlook a lot of them. But the one PR issue that dominated headlines was Qatar’s decision to ban alcohol at the World Cup.

As a predominately Muslim country, Qatar has restricted laws around alcohol sales, however, when they were announced as the host country, they assured fans that alcohol would be available to purchase within the stadiums throughout the tournament…a decision that 2-days before the first match, was revoked.

While there was some noble aspirations behind the decision to ban alcohol, the quick revocation on the decision led to consumer uproar, with millions taking to Twitter and other social media platforms to condemn Qatar for their decision. This also led to wider issues with Budweiser and other alcohol sponsors that had already agreed to advertise at the World Cup, meaning considerable lost revenue and branding opportunities for them.

All that being said, behaviour was better than ever at this year’s World Cup, with a significant reduction in alcohol-related incidents amongst the crowds…so a PR crisis turns positive for Qatar? That’s rare, but a nice outcome all around.


The Fresh-Prince of Bel-Air delivers a fresh slap onto fellow comedian Chris Rock at this year’s Oscars Awards…if that isn’t a PR storm, I don’t know what is. You can re-watch the awkward moment below.

Two parties entered into PR crisis mode for this incident. The first, obviously Will Smith. Secondly, the Academy themselves.

While Will offered an apology almost immediately, what was incredibly interesting about this PR story, was the action (or lack thereof) from the Academy in response to this notorious moment.

Sadly, the Academy did not strip Will of his Best Actor title won that same year, but instead issued a tweet on the night of the awards, condoning his activity. Upon review several weeks later (and after facing severe public backlash), they decided to ban Will from Awards ceremonies for the next 10 years. Whilst it was a shocking, spontaneous event that couldn’t be anticipated, this PR crisis calls for the need for all organisations to continually be prepared and have crisis comms measures in place to reactively deal with these types of issues.

So, what did you think of this year’s biggest PR crises and how they were handled?

If you are ready to prepare your brand for 2023 and want a great crisis comms team in your arsenal to help you build a strategy, please contact the Agent99 Team today.

For more recaps of some of 2022’s biggest PR moments, you can check out our previous blogs on the The Best PR Campaigns, Best Publicity Stunts and Best Booze Campaigns.

Agent Em