Any publicity is not good publicity, but it doesn’t have to be bad

March 8, 2008Comments Off

NorthernrockI love the quote "There’s no such thing as bad publicity", or even better: "any publicity is good publicity". I wonder if people that utter such stupidity are booking a holiday to Kenya anytime soon? Or buying Mattel toys for their children? Or about to open an account with Northern Rock?

Of course there’s bad publicity, why else would crisis media management exist? However, let’s make some distinctions, there’s ‘good’ bad publicity, ‘bad’ bad publicity and, my personal favourite, corporate stupidity.

First let’s tackle corporate stupidity. Corporate stupidity is brilliant, I love corporate stupidity. It makes me feel clever not to work for a cumbersome organisation that sacrifices commons sense for efficiency. It’s certainly the most fun to research. Good examples of corporate stupidity include strictly obeying procedures in the face of common sense, putting a corpse next to a gold-level customer or sending a dossier on a journalist to the journalist.

Generally, isolated incidents of corporate stupidity wont change your buying habits too much. Instead, it’s when these fissures of corporate stupidity become incremental, that the damage begins. Dissatisfaction with service is a typical one. It begins with one or two customers then snowballs.

Next there is this very slippery slope of ‘good’ bad publicity, the sort of publicity which prompts this post’s opening sentence. Celebrities fall into this category. Jade Goody, Paris Hilton and even Britney Spears would be long forgotten by now if they didn’t cause so many controversies. For these celebrities bad publicity is the raison d’etre , they need it, and cultivate it – or rather, their agents probably do.

In the murkier world of business, ‘good’ bad publicity is remarkable luck. Sales in Turkey Twizzlers rose during the public backlash against the brand. Even more inexplicable is that Turkey Twizzlers are a food, an industry harmed more often by bad publicity than any other. 

Finally, we get to ‘bad’ bad publicity. This is the dark stuff. The stuff that cause businesses to crumble in minutes (god bless 24hour news). This is why crisis media management (CMM) exists. When conflicts threaten tourism, in steps CMM. When customers run to withdraw savings, in steps CMM. When a national epidemic is suspected to have originated from your plant, in steps CMM. God bless it.

I guess it’s just a little too easy to berate someone for claiming any publicity is good publicity. Likewise it’s foolish to assume that every type of bad publicity needs strict CMM principles.

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