Monthly media roundup with AYLIEN News API: April 2017 – PR Disasters

Last month was full of unexpected high-profile publicity disasters, from passengers being dragged off planes to Kendall Jenner failing to solve political unrest.  For this month’s Monthly Media Roundup we decided to collect and analyze news stories related to three major events and try to understand the media reaction to each story, while also uncovering the impact this coverage had on the brands involved.

In the roundup of the month’s news, we’ll cover three major events:

  1. United Airlines’ mishandling of negative public sentiment cut their market value by $255 million.
  2. Pepsi’s ad capitalizing on social movements shows the limits of appealing to people’s consciousness for advertising.
  3. The firing of Bill O’Reilly shows how brands have become aware of the importance of online sentiment.

1: United Airlines

On Monday, April 10th, a video went viral showing a passenger being violently dragged off a United Airlines flight. On the same day, United CEO Oscar Munoz attempted to play down the controversy by defending staff and calling the passenger “disruptive and belligerent”. With investors balking at the tsunami of negative publicity that was compounded by Munoz, the following day United’s share price fell by over 1%, shaving $255 million off their market capitalization by the end of trading.
We collected relevant news articles published in April using a detailed search query with our News API. By analyzing the volume of articles we collected and
analyzing the sentiment of each article, we were able to get a clear picture of how the media responded to the video and subsequent events:

Media Reaction to United Airlines Controversy

The volume of stories published shows how quickly the media jumped on the story (and also that Munoz’s statement compounded the issue), while the sentiment graph shows just how negative all that coverage was. The key point here is that the action United took in dealing with the wave of negative online sentiment – not listening to the customer – led to their stock tumbling. Investors predicted that ongoing negative sentiment on such a scale would lose potential customers, and began offloading shares in response.

Most shared stories about United in April


  1. United Airlines Stock Drops $1.4 Billion After Passenger-Removal Controversy” – Fortune, 57,075 shares
  2. United Airlines says controversial flight was not overbooked; CEO apologizes again” – USA Today, 43,044 shares


  1. United Airlines Passenger Is Dragged From an Overbooked Flight” – The New York Times, 1,443 shares
  2. When a ticket is not enough: United Airlines forcibly removes a man from an overbooked flight” – The Economist, 1,430 shares


  1. Simon the giant rabbit, destined to be world’s biggest, dies on United Airlines flight” – Fox News, 62,830 upvotes
  2. Passengers film moment police drag man off a United Airlines plane” – Daily Mail, 25,142 upvotes

2: Pepsi

In contrast with United’s response, Pepsi’s quick reaction to online opinion paid off this month as they faced their own PR crisis. On April 3rd, Pepsi released an ad that was immediately panned for trying to incorporate social movements like Black Lives Matter into a soft drink commercial that prompted ridicule online.
After using our News API to collect every available article on this story and analyzing the sentiment of each article, we can get a picture of how the media reacted to the ad. This lets us see that on the day after the ad was launched, there were over three times more negative articles mentioning Pepsi than positive ones.

Media Reaction to Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner Ad

As a company that spends $2.5 billion annually on advertising, Pepsi were predictably swift in their response to bad publicity, pulling the ad from broadcast just over 24 hours after it was first aired.

Even though this controversy involved a major celebrity, the Pepsi ad debacle has actually been shared significantly less compared to the other PR disasters. By using our News API to rank the most shared articles across major social media platforms, we can see that the story gathered a lot less pace than those covering the United scandal.

Most shared articles about Pepsi in April


  1. Twitter takes Pepsi to task over tone-deaf Kendall Jenner ad” – USA Today, 19,028 shares
  1. Hey Pepsi, Here’s How It’s Done. Heineken Takes On Our Differences, and Nails It” – AdWeek, 16,465 shares


  1. Heineken Just Put Out The Antidote to That Pepsi Kendall Jenner Ad” – Fast Company, 1,833 shares
  2. Pepsi Just Released An Ad That May Be One Of The Worst Ads Ever Made (And That’s Saying Something)” –, 1,192 shares


  1. Pepsi ad review: A scene-by-scene dissection of possibly the worst commercial of all time” – Independent UK, 58 upvotes
  2. Pepsi pulls Kendall Jenner advert amid outcry” – BBC, 58 upvotes

3: Fox Firing Bill O’Reilly

On April 1st, the New York Times published an article detailing numerous previously unknown sexual harassment cases brought against Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly, who was Fox’s most popular host, drew an average of 3 million views to his prime-time slot. Though his ratings were unscathed (they actually rose), advertisers began pulling their ads from O’Reilly’s slot in response to the negative PR the host was receiving.
We sourced every available story about Bill O’Reilly published in April, and analyzed the sentiment of each article. Below we can see just how negative this coverage was over the course of the story.

Media Reaction to Bill O’Reilly Controversy

This was not the first time that O’Reilly had been accused of sexual harassment, having been placed on leave in 2004 for the same reason. In both 2004 and April 2017, O’Reilly’s viewer ratings remained unhurt by the scandals. What is different in 2017 is that brands are far more aware of the “Voice of the Customer” – social media and online content representing the intentions of potential customers. This means negative coverage and trends like #DropOReilly have a considerable effect on brands’ marketing behaviour.

Most-mentioned Keywords in Articles about Bill O’Reilly in April

By analyzing the content from every article about Bill O’Reilly in April, we can rank the most frequently used Entities and Keywords across the collection of articles. Not surprisingly, our results show us that the coverage was dominated by the topic of sexual harassment and Fox News. But our analysis also uncovered other individuals and brands that were mentioned in news articles as being tied to the scandal. Brands like BMW and Mercedes took swift action to distance themselves from the backlash by announcing they were pulling advertising from O’Reilly’s show in an attempt to preempt any negative press.

Most shared articles about Bill O’Reilly in April


  1. Bill O’Reilly is officially out at Fox News” – The Washington Post, 63,341 shares
  2. Bill O’Reilly Is Out At Fox News” – NPR, 50,895 shares


  1. Bill O’Reilly Out At Fox News” – Forbes, 861 shares
  2. Fox Is Preparing to Cut Ties with Bill O’Reilly” – The Wall Street Journal, 608 shares


  1. Sources: Fox News Has Decided Bill O’Reilly Has to Go” – New York Magazine, 80,436 upvotes
  2. Fox News drops Bill O’Reilly in wake of harassment allegations” – Fox News, 12,387 upvotes

We hope this post has given you an idea of the importance of media monitoring and content analysis is from a PR and branding point of view. Being able to collect and understand thousands of articles in a matter of minutes means you can quickly assess media reaction to PR crises as they unfold.

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