Public relations lessons: When is bad publicity good for a company? | Study/D Marketing Communications (2023)

Scott DieckgraefeUnderstanding

By Scott Dieckgraefe, Founder and President of Studio/D

(Video) PUBLIC RELATIONS vs. Advertising vs.Marketing

It's often said that "bad publicity doesn't exist," and a recent study seems to back this up. Seth Arenstein (a writer for PR News) cites aexclusiveJune 2022 study that found that negative branding actually drove more website traffic than positive stories, which seems to confirm the old adage. The same study found that even neutral stories generated more traffic than positive stories. All of this implies that today's public is more concerned with negative than positive news.

We found supplemental information that suggests that mentioning lesser-known brands (even if done in a negative way) leads to greater name recognition, which translates to positive benefits over time. For example, if we say that "George W. Bush's painted portraits are inferior to Leonardo da Vinci's", the comparison actually highlights Bush's work because of the da Vinci comparison.

That's according to a 2011 Stanford study in which Alan Sorensen analyzed book reviews with book sales and found that previously unknown authors who received negative reviews still saw a 45% increase in sales. Perhaps this increase in sales is also due to the positive association of being mentioned in the same review with great authors.

(Video) Publicity and Public Relations | Marketing | Principles of Marketing | BBA | | MBA | Hindi

Important Tip #1:

For lesser-known or completely unknown brands, just being included in the conversation with larger companies can lead to awareness gains and higher website visits.

However, increasing website awareness and traffic is not the same as building a positive brand reputation. Consider when Tiger Wood's sexual leaks generated significant negative publicity. Woods lost many of his lucrative endorsement deals, showing that a previously clean reputation can be badly tarnished by bad publicity (although the passage of time has helped his reputation rebuild).

Important Tip #2:

(Video) PUBLIC RELATIONS Interview Questions & Answers! (How to PASS a PR Interview)

If bad publicity is inconsistent with an established brand reputation, the results are unlikely to be favorable.

However, if a company (or an individual) has a reputation for being a "bad ass" or some sort of "disruptor," negative publicity can help burnish its "disruptive" reputation. Consider Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, which benefited greatly from an estimated $2 billion in free advertising generated by coverage of his unorthodox political behavior during his campaign. When Elon Musk smoked marijuana during a television interview, the negative publicity affected his expected personality.

Important Tip #3:

When bad publicity is what a brand expects, it can strengthen brand positioning.

Our final point will be "playing with fire." When an existing brand loses relevance with its audience and needs to move to a new positioning, bad publicity can “shock” the audience into seeing a brand in a different light. Consider the pivot of Pizza Hut a few years ago when they realized their pizzas were terrible and needed to be changed. Instead of just educating their audience about the improvements made to their product, they took a bold step and sold themselves in paid advertising, resulting in a better product.

(Video) It's Not Manipulation, It's Strategic Communication | Keisha Brewer | TEDxGeorgetown

Important Tip #4:

If used carefully, bad publicity can force customers to think differently about a company and help them to take a new position.

Conclusion: Negative news has a big impact on customers because we focus more on negative than positive. For every shooting that gets reported in the news, there are millions and millions of peaceful clashes that go unreported.

The power of bad news can be creatively harnessed to a communications advantage by savvy marketers, but it needs to be handled well. The first step is to know your brand and your audience - using this knowledge you can determine how to harness the power of advertising.

(Video) [JOUR 111] What is Public Relations? Part 1

Finally, for the old-school PR pros who still categorize positive news separately from neutral and negative stories, it's time to adjust this metric to better determine how stories are impacting the brand as a whole.

Atelier/Dis a full-service marketing communications firm working with mid-market manufacturing and industrial customers, as well as with companies that support the manufacturing ecosystem. We are a team of "doers" who simplify complex communication challenges with messages that inspire and drive results. Find out more about us atStudioD.Agency, or call our President Scott Dieckgraefe at 314-200-2630.


When bad publicity is good? ›

When bad publicity is incongruent with an established good brand reputation, the results will probably not be favorable. Yet when a company (or individual) has a reputation for being a “bad ass” or a “disruptor” of sorts, negative publicity can help burnish their “disruptive” reputation.

What is bad publicity in public relations? ›

Negative publicity means information which has been made public and that has caused, or is reasonably likely to cause, a decline or deterioration in your reputation or in the reputation of one or more of your products or services.

How bad publicity is good publicity? ›

Negative publicity has been seen to help relatively unknown companies or products quickly gain awareness. Good or bad publicity can take brands from unknown to known, increasing initial sales and search hits. However, bad publicity can ultimately damage a business — often beyond repair.

What are the benefits of bad publicity? ›

While prior research have shown only downsides (e.g., decreased sales), the studies demonstrate that negative publicity can increase choice and sales when it increases awareness. While a negative New York Times review hurt book sales for well-known authors, for example, it increased sales for unknown authors.

What is an example of bad publicity? ›

One of the most notable bad PR examples in 2022 was when a large streaming service deleted thousands of user reviews from its site without explanation or notification to its customers. Customers felt betrayed and outraged, leading to a huge backlash against the company that quickly spread across social media.

Can negative publicity be good for a firm? ›

Specifically, we argue that negative publicity can increase purchase likelihood and sales by increasing product awareness. Consequently, negative publicity should have differential effects on established versus unknown products. Three studies support this perspective.

What does bad publicity do for a company? ›

Bad publicity can result in a business losing its customers to competition. Due to the presence of stiff competition, it is important for brands to take care of their public perception. They must undertake all possible ways to undermine bad publicity.

How do companies deal with bad publicity? ›

Confess. If you're getting bad publicity because you or your business did something wrong, admit the mistake, apologize and offer a plan to fix it. Denial or stonewalling only prolongs the story and encourages people to question your motivation. Ignoring bad publicity won't make it go away.

What is good and bad public relations? ›

In general, good PR is about creating a positive image for your company. It's about building relationships with the public and the media, and it's about promoting your brand in a way that makes people want to do business with you. Bad PR, on the other hand, is about creating a negative image for your company.

Is bad publicity better than no publicity? ›

P.T. Barnum once said, “There's no such thing as bad publicity,” which is almost as good as Oscar Wilde's version, who put it like this: “There's only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Who said bad publicity is good publicity? ›

The phrase is rumoured to have first been said in the 19th century by American showman and circus owner Phineas T. Barnum.

How do you survive bad publicity? ›

7 Ways to Survive a Bad PR Situation
  1. Plan Ahead. ...
  2. Know Roles. ...
  3. Communicate. ...
  4. Deal With It Head On. ...
  5. Be Honest and Succinct. ...
  6. Pick Your Representative. ...
  7. Highlight Your Strengths. ...
  8. Make a Decision and Stick With It.
Aug 16, 2022

What is the best defense of negative publicity? ›

The 9 Golden Rules for Dealing With Bad Publicity
  1. Rule #1: Leave the internet bear alone. ...
  2. Rule #2: Do not pick fights with someone who buys ink by the barrel. ...
  3. Rule #3: Let the haters destroy their own credibility. ...
  4. Rule #4: Silence is okay. ...
  5. Rule #5: But you should listen. ...
  6. Rule #6: Look at it as an opportunity.
Jul 9, 2013

What is the impact of negative publicity? ›

Bad publicity can contribute to negative brand association, which can in turn reduce sales over time. Changing attitudes and brand associations can take a great deal of time and can also be costly, as a company might be forced to invest in additional advertising and campaigns to correct negative attitudes.

What is the impact of publicity in marketing? ›

Publicity adds credibility to the overall communication message. It gives the target audience a reason to talk about the brand and, in turn, increases the effectiveness of word of mouth and viral marketing. Publicity is considered an important promotional tool.

What are some examples of bad marketing? ›

Here are some examples of marketing fails that made us wince:
  • Pepsi: Kendall Jenner TV Spot. ...
  • Dove: Body Positive Packaging. ...
  • McDonald's: UK TV Spot. ...
  • Ford: Print Misfire. ...
  • Sony: "Racist" Print Ad. ...
  • Burger King: Smartphone Campaign. ...
  • Audi: Chinese Wedding Commercial. ...
  • Adidas: Boston Marathon Email.
Feb 24, 2020

What is bad marketing strategy examples? ›

What are some bad marketing strategies? Some bad marketing strategies to avoid at all costs include filler advertising, spamming, cold calling, not doing enough research, and not paying attention to market trends.

How do you turn negative PR into positive? ›

All photos courtesy of Forbes Councils members.
  1. Emphasize Your Vision And Mission. ...
  2. Hire A PR Professional To Help. ...
  3. Turn Bad Press Into A Morale Booster. ...
  4. Address The Mistake Head-On. ...
  5. Find The Positive. ...
  6. Make Your Team's Part Of The Solution. ...
  7. Remain Confident And Positive For Your Team. ...
  8. Tell The Truth With Tact And Compassion.
Jun 27, 2018

How can a company improve publicity? ›

  1. Focus On Your Local Market. Without a doubt, the best way to ramp up publicity for a new business is to focus on the local market. ...
  2. Leverage User-Generated Content. ...
  3. Host A Free Event. ...
  4. Connect With The Media. ...
  5. Work With Influencers. ...
  6. Offer Free Samples. ...
  7. Write A Press Release. ...
  8. Get Involved In Your Community.
Oct 3, 2022

How bad public relations can damage a brand? ›

The positive associations people once carried turn sour and consumers lose trust in the brand. Bad publicity can also mean brands are in for a rough time financially. Most consumers avoid buying products from companies they don't like and share prices usually go into freefall.

How can a company recover from bad publicity? ›

  1. Talk About It Internally. ...
  2. Apologize, Acknowledge And Listen. ...
  3. Start A Candid Conversation With Customers. ...
  4. Be Accountable, Honest And Authentic. ...
  5. Find The Lesson In The Situation. ...
  6. Keep A Level Head. ...
  7. Offer A Public Plan To Fix The Situation. ...
  8. Amplify What You're Doing Right.
Jun 25, 2021

How can a company overcome a bad reputation? ›

Have a plan before fixing your reputation.
  1. Own Your Past. ...
  2. Control the conversation about your brand. ...
  3. Understand complaints your brand already receives. ...
  4. Adjust your social media response plan based on research, not emotion. ...
  5. Monitor employee complaint platforms. ...
  6. Be proactive to prevent issues from turning into a crisis.

How social media can deal with bad publicity? ›

10 Tips for Handling Bad Press on Social Media
  1. Have a plan. ...
  2. Listen and monitor. ...
  3. Be human. ...
  4. Take responsibility. ...
  5. Respond immediately. ...
  6. Don't get defensive or give generic responses. ...
  7. Don't act as if the backlash isn't happening. ...
  8. Don't delete.

What is an example of good public relations? ›

Public Relations Examples

Individuals and organizations influence their public relations through a myriad of activities. Some of these public relations examples are traditional media advertising campaigns, sponsorships, product placement, social media campaigns, consumer education, and corporate social responsibility.

What is good and bad image in public relations? ›

It's all about feelings, not about corresponding with reality. In these circumstances, a person or organization that is liked or approved by the public is said to have a "good image." A person or organization that is disliked or disapproved of is said to have a "bad image."

What companies have had bad publicity? ›

Only one mistake can damage customers' love and trust they had for a brand.
Table of Contents
  • McNeil Consumer Healthcare: Tylenol.
  • Johnson & Johnson: Baby Powder.
  • McDonald's: Super Size Me.
  • Victoria's Secret: Ad Slogan.
  • Chipotle: E. Coli Outbreaks.
  • IHOP: “Personality” Pancakes.
  • Samsung: Galaxy Note 7.
  • Procter & Gamble: Tide.
Jun 10, 2021

What is the big difference between public relations and publicity? ›

Publicity concerns presence in the media. It creates public awareness for a brand. It is promotion, used to attract attention. Public relations involves a whole host of strategies to accomplish an organisation's goals by sending messages to appropriate audiences.

What is bad publicity? ›

Negative publicity happens when your company or someone in it has misstepped and badly. Sure, you might build some brand awareness with it, but you can bet it's the wrong kind of brand awareness. And the impact can affect employee morale, employee retention, brand loyalty, and even sales.

What was PT Barnum's famous quote? ›

"There's a sucker born every minute" is a phrase closely associated with P. T. Barnum, an American showman of the mid-19th century, although there is no evidence that he actually said it. Early examples of its use are found among gamblers and confidence tricksters.

What does good bad press mean? ›

If someone or something gets bad press, they are criticized, especially in the newspapers, on television, or on radio. If they get good press, they are praised.

How do you rebuild a company's reputation? ›

How to rebuild reputation after a crisis
  1. Keep talking. Communication is key. ...
  2. Take responsibility, in time. Having admitted the fault, make sure you do actually fix it. ...
  3. Get stakeholders onside. The first people to appease are the major stakeholders in your business. ...
  4. Be authentic. ...
  5. Show strong leadership. ...
  6. The best defence.
Aug 16, 2019

Which is the best strategy to deal with negative people? ›

6 strategies to deal with negative people
  • Be secure. ...
  • Listen without judgment. ...
  • Take control of your time. ...
  • Act with intention, don't react. ...
  • Set boundaries. ...
  • Accept responsibility.
Nov 11, 2021

Is negative publicity a threat? ›

First, depending on the facts of a given situation and depending on how it's phrased, a threat of negative publicity or even a threat of merely contacting a media outlet could be extortion. Such threats could even amount to blackmail depending on the facts and the aggressiveness of a prosecutor.

Which two steps will you take to effectively address the negative publicity? ›

Six Steps to Respond to Negative Publicity
  1. Identify negative publicity quickly.
  2. Correct any false information.
  3. Act before the problem escalates.
  4. Own up to your mistakes.
  5. Explain how you will fix the problem.
  6. Share positive information about your company.
Jan 3, 2023

What is the most important tactic to remember when responding to negative publicity? ›

The most important things to remember when responding to negative press are to remain credible by using facts, and to push the positives rather than being defensive. An appropriate post on a company's social media site can often turn negative press into an opportunity for positive attention.

Why PR is important in marketing? ›

Aside from helping companies gain positive publicity, strong PR allows them to set the narrative in communications with customers, prospects, investors, and current and potential employees.

What is the disadvantage of publicity in marketing? ›

Control - The biggest potential drawback with publicity is that we don't control the message. So, as a company, trying to sell a product or service, we don't control the message when it comes through publicity. That is, we can't control who transmits it, the message itself (the content or accuracy of the content), etc.

What is the role of publicity in public relations and how does it affect marketing? ›

PR helps establish and maintain a good public image and reputation of companies. It also helps to manage any negative publicity that companies may face. PR can be used for various purposes, such as: improving, building, and protecting brand reputation.

How should you respond to the bad publicity? ›

Confess. If you're getting bad publicity because you or your business did something wrong, admit the mistake, apologize and offer a plan to fix it. Denial or stonewalling only prolongs the story and encourages people to question your motivation. Ignoring bad publicity won't make it go away.

What's another word for bad publicity? ›

What is another word for bad press?
negative publicityadverse publicity
bad publicityunfortunate publicity

How can negative publicity be removed? ›

Create Brand name Social Media Pages

This is the most effective method to deal with negative articles in search results. If any negative article is ranking high in the Search Result page for your brand name search, then try to push down the article by creating social media pages for your brand.

What are the effects of bad publicity on companies? ›

Bad publicity can result in a business losing its customers to competition. Due to the presence of stiff competition, it is important for brands to take care of their public perception. They must undertake all possible ways to undermine bad publicity.

Is bad publicity better than none? ›

P.T. Barnum once said, “There's no such thing as bad publicity,” which is almost as good as Oscar Wilde's version, who put it like this: “There's only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

What do you call someone with a bad reputation? ›

1 disreputable, ill-famed, notorious. 2 disgraceful, scandalous; nefarious, odious, wicked, shocking, vile, base, heinous, villainous.

How do you describe a bad reputation? ›

Some common synonyms of disrepute are disgrace, dishonor, ignominy, and infamy. While all these words mean "the state or condition of suffering loss of esteem and of enduring reproach," disrepute stresses loss of one's good name or the acquiring of a bad reputation.


1. INTRODUCTION TO PR | The ultimate public relations course
(TopLine Film: Video Production Company)
2. What is Public Relations (and why is it important)
(Christina Nicholson)
3. What Is Public Relations (PR) | Positive Publicity Vs Negative Publicity | Positive PR
(Big Media Kart)
4. The Promotional Mix Explained | McDonald's Examples
(Two Teachers)
(Jo Jones)
6. Public Relations Best Practices Presentation
(Atlantic Association of CBDCs)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Aron Pacocha

Last Updated: 02/07/2023

Views: 6446

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Aron Pacocha

Birthday: 1999-08-12

Address: 3808 Moen Corner, Gorczanyport, FL 67364-2074

Phone: +393457723392

Job: Retail Consultant

Hobby: Jewelry making, Cooking, Gaming, Reading, Juggling, Cabaret, Origami

Introduction: My name is Aron Pacocha, I am a happy, tasty, innocent, proud, talented, courageous, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.