A Look Back on 2017’s Public Relations Winners and Losers


It’s that time of year again! Was it really only a year ago that we were talking about Leslie Jones and the Ghostbusters movie, Pokemon Go, and Samsung’s exploding phone? 2017 has felt like a lifetime. And in that lifetime (as one would expect), a lot has happened. Let’s take a look!


One of the most contentious stories of the past two years has been the ongoing “take a knee” protests popularized by Colin Kaepernik (who was on last year’s list) and their resulting backlash. The protests, an attempt to call attention to victimization of black men and women in America by police forces across the country, quickly became a cultural flashpoint, with critics claiming the protesters were “disrespecting” America’s veterans who had fought under that flag. Whatever side you fell on, the NFL (and its independent franchisees) were in a no-win scenario; condemn the protest and alienate vast swathes of your audience, or support them to the exact same outcome. The choice to ultimately do and say nothing on the matter simply punted the ball to individual franchise owners whose ongoing disputes over the issue merely kept it in the news – exactly where the NFL didn’t want it.


The fact that there wasn’t a win scenario here doesn’t mean the NFL hasn’t paid for it. The president has been turning his wrath toward it, players and fans are at each other’s throats, and America’s default national pastime has become hopelessly politicized. While the NFL itself never asked for this problem, it’s place at the center of American leisure culture meant that eventually it was going to get caught in the same vociferous left-right divide that’s affecting everything else, and it handled it about as badly as anyone could.


In early October, the story broke out into the open of myriad sexual assaults by Harvey Weinstein, formerly of the Weinstein Company. Since then, it’s been an unbroken string of accusations that have felled some of the most prominent and once-beloved people in Hollywood, ranging from Kevin Spacey to Louis CK. This ongoing reckoning has become a scathing indictment of Hollywood culture, and nobody looks good: not the abusers, not the studios that enabled them, not the system of reprisals that kept more people from speaking out about wide-open secrets.


It’s been a slaughterhouse, ugly and unending. Hollywood looks about as bad as Hollywood ever has, and now with men like Matt Damon speaking out against this process and known predators still in powerful positions, it’s not looking any better than it had before. There have been more articles critical of the film and entertainment industry’s powerful boys’ club than ever before, an object of denunciation and shame. It’s frankly hard to imagine Hollywood at a lower point – and yet many of its most powerful men still don’t seem to get it.

The #MeToo Movement

A grassroots effort founded by Tarana Burke that’s been a decade in the making, the #MeToo movement has done more to frontline the conversation about the harassment and abuse women have to endure on a daily basis than perhaps anything else, and it’s served as the major catalyst behind the unmasking of Hollywood’s scandalous state. While it has been facing somewhat of a backlash in recent weeks, it’s been a powerful moment for women that has already begun to effect real change, while taking charge of the national conversation.


Easily a winner; no backlash can begin to overwhelm the incredibly positive response this movement has received, and the unwavering support of vast swathes of the population. “The Silence Breakers” were named TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year”. And while there has been some pushback (it’s not really surprising that many men still feel the need to chime in with “not all men”) , this movement has proven both powerful, effective, and broadly popular in a year when many women felt overwhelmed and fed up. It’s a clear response to the time we find ourselves in (one in which even the president has been accused of sexual assault), and it certainly feels like this is only the beginning of a long overdue reckoning.


Uber started 2017 in the pits; Travis Kalanick, the company’s embattled former CEO, was coming under fire for abusive behavior towards his own employees and drivers, and the company he founded was increasingly regarded as engaging in predatory and unethical practices, including price-gouging in times of crisis and breaking strikes. But Kalanick was ousted earlier this year, and his successor, Dara Khosrowshahi, has been navigating the process of restoring the company to its previous status atop the rideshare heap amidst a series of breaking stories, scandals, and cover-ups, including news that under Kalanick the company paid hackers to conceal a massive data breach. In other words, the company still isn’t looking good.

Originally published on HuffPost.