The True Cost of Bad Publicity

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Bad news #3It has been said that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Looking around today, it’s clear that some companies still buy into this.

While it’s true that, in some cases, a bit of negative publicity is better than no publicity, the power of the Internet has changed equation. After all, pre-Internet bad publicity could eventually disappear into the past. Not so today. Something posted online today may still be around 10 years from now. And it may be ‘archived’ in lots of different places thanks to blogs and social media.

When looking at the concept of “bad publicity” today, it’s important to understand the costs. Here are

three of ways bad publicity can impact you online:

  • SEO hijacking. How would you like to do a search for your company name only to learn that you “suck” according to the third result on Google? For some companies, this sort of thing isn’t a hypothetical — it’s a nightmare reality. Thanks to the power of self-publishing online, one disgruntled customer with enough free time can potentially taint your reputation through the search engines.
  • Social media chatter. With social networks like Facebook and Twitter a mainstream part of today’s Internet, anything that’s said on them can and will be held against you. If your company has a bad PR day and a few hundred people on Twitter are holding your feet to the fire, it can create the impression that there’s widespread dissatisfaction with your company, even though a few hundred people may not be a lot in the greater scheme of things.
  • Poor reviews. Product and service reviews are ubiquitous on the Internet. From online retailers like to standalone reviews websites like Yelp, consumers have more power than ever to tell others how they feel about your products and services. If they aren’t happy, or generally don’t like you, these reviews can become potent ammunition for driving your potential customers away.

The above can all translate into the worst thing imaginable: lost business. This is especially the case as more and more consumers’ research products and services online before making a purchasing decision. Whether a potential customer is looking you up through a search engine, checking out what people are saying about you through social media channels or reading reviews posted on an online retailer’s website, bad publicity can realistically follow a company everywhere it appears online.

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From this perspective, it’s hard to agree with the old “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Thanks to the Internet, one could actually argue that “there’s nothing as bad as bad publicity.” That’s why it’s important for companies to recognize the risks and costs. Once recognized, they can often be mitigated through common sense best practices like, for instance, a heavy emphasis on customer service. After all, a lot of bad publicity arises out of bad customer experiences. Take care of your customers and address their problems when they arise and you can actually turn lemons into lemonade.

That said, there’s obviously no way to eliminate the possibility of bad publicity, so when disaster strikes, being ready to respond using many of the tools that will be used against you is key.

This article, written by Patricio Robles, originally appeared in PR Fuel (, a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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