By: Professor Paul Argenti Posted: Dec 18th, 2014

As the year comes to a close, it’s time for me to once again pick the worst of the worst corporate communication blunders for 2014.

Culled from my Harvard Business Review columns, tweets, and suggestions from my loyal following, this year was a difficult one to narrow down to the five worst, but herewith is my holiday swipe at those naughty communicators who dropped to the bottom of a very long list. 

5.  Malaysia Airlines

4.  Bill Cosby

3.  The NFL

2.  Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella

1.  General Motors

You can read more analysis of the worst communication blunders of 2014 here.

Yes, there were some good examples ...

Given that my students, clients, and twitter followers always ask me if I have any good examples, I thought I would end with some credit where credit is due. Two companies stand out for me this year in how they handled what could have been major blunders, and even worse, crises:

After Jodi Kanter of the New York Times wrote a disturbing article about barista and single mom Janette Navarro’s travails as she struggled to keep her life in order and deal with Starbuck’s automated scheduling procedures, the company did something extraordinary.  The next day, Starbucks changed its scheduling policies for all 130,000 workers. I’ve written extensively about Starbucks and its responsible and savvy approach to business and corporate communication, but this response was truly amazing.

And finally, I want to give a very high five to CVS (now CVS Health) for solving a problem before it happened (see my HBR column earlier this year on this topic) by cutting the sale of tobacco in all of its stores. The company was smart enough to realize that selling tobacco in what is now more of a health care company didn’t make sense even if it meant foregoing over $2 billion in sales.  In addition to immediate kudos from President Obama, major media, and me, the company did something it was going to have to do anyway given the way laws are changing around the sale of tobacco in states like California.

The lesson here and really in all of my examples above is to solve problems before they happen if you don’t want to appear on this list or any other questioning your reputation and judgment.

I want to wish my followers old and new a very happy holiday season and a healthy, prosperous, and blunder-free new year!

Join the conversation! Share your reactions to Paul's 2014 picks, or tell us your own Communication Blunders of the year.


Professor Paul Argenti teaches in several open and custom Executive Education programs throughout the year on the Dartmouth College Campus: The Tuck Executive Program (TEP), Leadership & Strategic Impact, and Brand & Reputation.

Follow Paul Argenti on Twitter: @PaulArgenti

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