Is all publicity really good publicity…?

Attention from the media… it’s what we want right? But, is all publicity good publicity?

After all, Kanye West’s continuous public outbursts and Twitter rants don’t seem to hurt him and when the movie Borat made fun of Kazakhstan, reported the number of requests for information about the film’s location increased 300 per cent.

However, generally, when you want to maintain and build your organisation’s reputation… bad publicity is exactly that.

That is not to say you can’t survive it, if you are prepared. Burying your head in the sand, and believing it won’t happen to you, is not the way to go.

A quick guide to surviving negative publicity

Firstly avoid the negative publicity in the first place! Monitor issues relevant to your organisation and industry very closely, as a crisis within your industry can soon become one for you. It is also imperative that feedback from both staff and customers is closely monitored, and that repeated issues raise a red flag.

These days media attention doesn’t just mean traditional media (newspapers, TV, etc.) it means social media, where news can go viral at the click of a button.

Act fast. The longer your organisation delays, the less control you have over the situation.

Generally, the best approach is to own up to your flaws and failings openly and honestly, and commit to doing better in future – and then act on it.

Scripted, inaccurate or slippery responses will make the situation worse. Mis-timed social media marketing campaigns will also exacerbate the problem – when you’re under attack, it’s not the time to launch a hashtag campaign your customers can use to complain about you a la #yourtaxis.

So, is bad publicity ever good?

According to a study conducted by Stanford University, bad publicity may actually be good for brand awareness. This is largely dependent on who you are, and who knows about you.

The study focused on buying patterns around 240 fiction titles reviewed by the New York Times. Unsurprisingly, researchers found that positive reviews always increased book sales anywhere from 32 to 52 per cent. For books written by well-known authors, negative reviews led to a 15 per cent decrease in sales.

However, the real surprise comes when you review the results of book sales, by relatively unknown authors. Negative publicity had the opposite effect on book sales in this category, increasing sales by 45 per cent.

Essentially, bad reviews brought attention to works that would have gone unnoticed, and therefore resulted in increased sales. This research indicates that new players in the market may benefit from publicity of any kind, however big brands have much more at stake.

Advice for the wise

While bad publicity can bring you attention, it is usually not the type of attention you want. Remember, the public are increasingly focused on social responsibility, and are spending and associating with organisations that reflect these values.

However, it’s important to remember negative publicity can happen to anyone who isn’t prepared, and the effects can be long lasting if not handled appropriately. So avoid being a deer in headlights and be prepared, tackle it openly and honestly, and the public could ultimately forgive you.