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The Biggest PR Myth of All: There’s No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

Long before I even got into the PR game, I’d always heard people say “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” The theory is that as long as people are talking about you, it’s a good thing. Even if they’re saying awful things about you or your company, the publicity is supposed to still be good because your name is on the top of people’s minds, keeping you relevant.

And in some cases, this is true. Just the other day, we talked about how Kanye West is the king of controversy. The hip hop superstar seems to always be on the receiving end of negative media coverage, but in his case, it’s actually served to help his career. It seems like the more negative attention he gets, the more people buy his albums. In short, he thrives on the “bad publicity.”

But Kanye is the exception, not the rule. The idea that there’s no such thing as bad publicity is laughable. It’s totally insane.

Just ask BP. Do you think they enjoyed being in the spotlight for the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf? Do you think they enjoyed having people boycott their fueling stations?  Do you think they thought it was cool that there was a BP oil spill Halloween costume?

Of course they didn’t. The company took a massive hit thanks to all of the negative publicity. They’ve already spent millions trying to rebuild their image through a PPC campaign, TV commercials, and more.

And what about Toyota? How do you think all of those recalls over faulty, dangerous vehicles worked out for them? Last time I checked, their sales were down nearly 10%, and their competitors were making huge gains.

Oh, and let’s not forget about Tiger Woods. It’s been exactly one year since his scandal, and the public hasn’t viewed the athlete the same ever since. Thanks to the negative publicity, Tiger Woods lost numerous sponsors, including Accenture and AT&T. You think he enjoyed the negative media attention? You think Tiger feels there’s no such thing as bad publicity?

Somehow, I doubt it.

I could go on and on with examples of how bad publicity has hurt brands of all sizes, but I think you’re starting to get the point. The truth is there is such a thing as bad publicity. And while all of the brands I mentioned can and likely will eventually recover, the bad publicity they’ve received has done some serious damage for at least the short term and maybe longer.

What do you think? Do you believe that all publicity is good publicity? Why or why not?

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 7 Cheap PR Tactics for Success in Any Economy here: http://www.ereleases.com/7cheaptactics.html


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11 Responses

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  2. andresboutsa says:

    RT @ereleases: The Biggest PR Myth of All: There’s No Such Thing as Bad Publicity http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/biggest-… #pr #publicity

  3. ABroyles says:

    Thanks for the interesting post.

    While I agree that bad publicity can yield devastating results for a company, I think what’s at the heart of the idea that there’s “no such thing as bad publicity” is the thought that while it puts negative energy toward the organization, it also gives them a unique chance to be in the spotlight, respond well to the negativity, and come back stronger for it. Ex: Domino’s

  4. […] be “controlled,” it has some limits in the current communications environment. Click here for a good piece on this axiom. For McDonalds the situation is not about anything they have done or […]

  5. Bob says:

    The phrase generally refers to the showbiz and entertainment industry. ITS FAIRLY OBVIOUS THAT other industries are more sensitive to bad PR. Food manufacturers, Restaurants, Security, Mission critical products. This is basic knowledge and clearly obvious.

  6. Ama says:

    Really? I don’t think it’s so obvious.

  7. Jim McNevin says:

    I agree that anytime you can get on the tip of peoples tounges, positively or negatively, you have a unique opportunity. What you do with it is another matter.

  8. […] might claim there’s “no such thing as bad publicity,” for individuals seeking fame, that’s not always the case. When it comes to your own legacy, it’s probably better to live in obscurity than to have your […]

  9. Thomas Rones says:

    “And while all of the brands I mentioned can and likely will eventually recover, the bad publicity they’ve received has done some serious damage for at least the short term and maybe longer.”

    If we follow the general model of brand awareness, brand preference, brand insistence — and the negative publicity serves to increase our brand awareness outside our specifically targeted segments, then how could this be a bad thing? Consumers must be aware of our brand before they can choose it.

    We when consider positioning or “occupying space in the customers mind” (according to Al Ries & Jack Trout) – a scandal will give us more space, through the repetition due to chats with friends, family and colleagues.

    Could negative news be a point of differentiation? — Maybe it needs to be coupled with another object for campaign sustainability

    Chick-Fil-A – I don’t remember the specifics of the whole gay controversy, but I won’t forget that it was Chick-Fil-A (Mistake this controversy for another fast food chain) because every once in awhile on a Sunday I will want some Chick-Fil-A and they are closed b/c of the whole christian thing. This will no doubt remind me of the gay controversy b/c the main opponents of gay marriage are those religious people who say marriage is a bibilical thing or whatever.

    Addressing the BP Oil Spill
    Did I know what the deepwater horizon was before the incident??
    How many people will (out of curiosity) learn about BP because of the upcoming movie?
    BP is pretty vertically integrated, but if they weren’t — how would people even know that the gas station they are pumping at has oil that was produced or refined by BP???

    Unfortunately there are so many variables, that the answer to whether any press is good press is probably highly dependent upon:
    -Company size,
    -industry structure,
    -channels of distribution,
    -type of product sold (frequency of purchase, how big is the purchase decision)
    -consumer visibility into the supply chain (How are people going to boycott a raw materials producer that supplies thousands of companies across all industries???),
    -Dimensions the product fulfills (Functional, Emotional)
    http://innovatorstoolkit.com/content/technique-1-jobs-be-done
    etc.

    The problem is finding the right variables to isolate.

    That being said, clearly you cannot put a personal celebrity “brand” in the same category as a real company.

    I think I am going to do a study on it, just for fun.

  10. Mickael Jackson says:

    Target stores got great publicity when the credit cards of their customers were compromised.

    Sony likes that sort of attention so much that they made a specialty of getting hacked, spilling customer information and executive emails on the Internet.

    Or Ashley Madison: not only the names of people trying to cheat on their spouses became public, but it also exposed that the whole business was a laughable scam.

    Great publicity.

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