There is no such thing as bad publicity: the biggest public relations myth (2023)

lar»public relations fuel" HayNothing like bad publicity:
The Biggest PR Myth of All

As an industry that seems almost magical to some people, public relations is plagued by certain misconceptions. People assume that we are always traveling with a martini in one hand and our cell phone in the other, while the truth is often much more boring; we're stuck at our desk, cell phone in one hand and mouse in the other (the martini has to go next to the mouse pad). Here are three more public relations myths that need to be busted.

Any publicity is good publicity:Public Relations Myth #1

The commonly quoted phrase “any publicity is good publicity”. along with his cousins: "there is no such thing as bad publicity", "bad press is good press" and "there is no such thing as bad press" are dead wrong.

These myths often stem from the practice of public relations stunts, also known as publicity stunts.

What is a publicity stunt?

A publicity stunt is something done to draw attention to the brand. Examples of public relations tricks include:

  • The ALS Ice Bucket campaign, in which people pour buckets of ice water over their heads to raise money for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) research. It went viral and raised over $100 million for the cause, mainly because they got several high profile personalities to take part and post it on their social media, creating imitators around the world.
  • Elon Musk sending his Tesla car into space, drawing attention to both his car and his space companies.

However, not all public relations stunts result in good things for the company.

(Video) PR myths debunked

There is no such thing as bad publicity: the biggest public relations myth (1)While going out of your way to market your business may seem like a good idea, it can often backfire terribly.

Take, for example, the PR stunt staged for Adult Swim's "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres." Street crews went to different cities like New York and Boston and handed out LED signs of one of the characters from the movie and TV show making an obscene gesture. The billboards were put up in conspicuous areas, under bridges and such, presumably when people saw them, they took notice.

Unfortunately, people in Boston found out and were scared into thinking that the billboards were bombs. When the entire campaign imploded, Turner Broadcasting ended up paying $2 million in damages.

Former Journalists Make the Best PR Professionals: PR Myth #2

It makes sense, right? A public relations job requires a lot of understanding and mastery of writing, research, and communication, all of which are also present in the field of journalism. So why doesn't it usually work?

To summarize, mastery of skills is often applied differently in the field of public relations than in journalism. For one thing, having strong communication skills is essential for both of you. However, journalism is, for the most part, a one-way street, where public relations requires a back and forth not often found in the world of newspapers and CNN.

If you're used to doing things one way, it's really hard to do a 180 and do everything backwards. This is not to say that it is impossible for a journalist to become an excellent public relations professional, but automatically assuming that training in the world of journalism will translate into the world of public relations is a mistake.

(Video) Misconceptions about Public Relations | Public Relations Myths

Your ad agency can handle your PR: PR Myth #3

Of course, being a public relations professional requires a lot of creativity. It takes a lot of creative energy to know how to run a social media campaign, how best to handle unexpected audience reaction, and when to switch gears when a campaign just isn't working.

And that's it; It takes a lot of creativity to do all this. Creative juice that an advertising agency would probably prefer to spend thinking of creative ideas for an advertising or commercial campaign.

For the most part, creative agencies are like journalists in our first example. They are used to a one-way form of communication, the art of the announcement, the message. Public relations professionals must have the skills to deal with and communicate with the public, not just for them. Spend the extra money to hire a separate group to handle your PR so you don't overburden your poor ad agency!

Share your favorite PR myth below.

Is all publicity good publicity?

Long before I got into the public relations game, I always heard people say "no bad publicity.” The theory is that as long as people talk about you, it's fine. Even if they say horrible things about you or your business, the publicity must be good because your name is on people's minds, keeping you relevant.

There is no such thing as bad publicity: the biggest public relations myth (2)And in some cases, this is true. The other day we talked about howKanye West is the king of controversy. The hip hop star always seems to be on the receiving end of negative media coverage, but in his case, it actually served to help his career. It seems that the more negative attention he gets, the more people buy his albums. Briefly,thrives on "bad publicity".And look at what's happened recently with his wealth and career: Kanye is definitely getting some bad publicity right now.

(Video) Marketing - Is there Bad Publicity?

The idea that there is no such thing as bad publicity is laughable.It's crazy.

Examples of Bad Publicity

There is no such thing as bad publicity: the biggest public relations myth (3)Just ask the BP. Do you think they enjoyed being in the spotlight for the disastrous Gulf oil spill? Do you think they liked having peopleboycott your gas stations? Do you think they thought it was cool that there was aBP Oil Spill Halloween Costume?

Of course not. The companytook a big hitThanks to all the negative publicity. They have already spent millions tryingrebuild your image through a PPC campaign, TV commercials and more.

There is no such thing as bad publicity: the biggest public relations myth (4)And the Toyota? How do you think all those dangerous and defective vehicle recalls worked out for them? Last time I checked,its sales fell almost 10%, and its competitors were making huge profits.

What about Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter? While the jury is still out, his actions have resulted in advertisers, Twitter's main source of revenue, leaving in droves and customers abandoning the social media platform. It is very true that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

There is no such thing as bad publicity: the biggest public relations myth (5)Oh therelet's not forget about tiger woods. Exactly one year has passed since the scandal about him, and the public has not seen the athlete in the same light since. Thanks to the negative publicity, Tiger Woods has lost several endorsers, including Accenture and AT&T. Do you think he enjoyed the negative media attention? Do you think Tiger thinks there is no negative publicity?

(Video) The Biggest Myth About Becoming A Billionaire (Debunked)

Somehow I doubt it.

I could go on and on about how bad publicity has hurt brands of all sizes, but I think you're starting to get the picture. The truth isthere is something called bad publicity.And while all of the brands I've mentioned can and likely will bounce back, the bad publicity they've received has done serious damage at least in the short term and perhaps longer term.

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

This article was written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable pricespress release presentation. Download your free copy of 7 Economic PR Tactics for Success in Any Economy here:

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Is there really no such thing as bad publicity? ›

Barnum once said, “There's no such thing as bad 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.”

What does the quote there is no such thing as bad publicity mean? ›

What's the meaning of the phrase 'There is no such thing as bad publicity'? 'There is no such thing as bad publicity' is the notion that all mentions in the media aid a person's cause, even if they put them in a bad light.

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.

Why is there such thing as 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 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.

Is negative publicity better than no publicity? ›

THE PUBLICIST: Bad publicity is better than no publicity, unless you're Jacko. I've generally always believed in the old adage that there's no such thing as bad publicity. Being criticized teased, mocked, or ridiculed is still, in most cases, better than being ignored in the celebrity game.

What was PT Barnum's famous saying? ›

"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.

How do you respond to negative publicity? ›

The following five tips (taken from internet) to handle negative publicity can be useful:
  1. Confront the source. ...
  2. Make amends. ...
  3. Acknowledge mistakes. ...
  4. Enlist supporters to speak on your behalf. ...
  5. Seek legal advice.

Who is most commonly credited with saying there's no such thing as bad publicity? ›

Bad PR in Concept

As noted above, the initial part of this argument is that attention is a good thing. P.T. Barnum is one that is credited with the quote, “there's no such thing as bad publicity”.

Is public relations good or bad? ›

Public relations (PR) can help raise your business' profile and improve your reputation. If done well, it can be a cost-effective way to get your message to a large audience. However, it can be tricky to guarantee success. Consider the benefits and challenges to make the most of PR in your business.

How bad publicity is good publicity? ›

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. While short-term awareness may be tempting, this is made at the expense of the business' long-term reputation.

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.

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.

How bad publicity affects 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.

What is the best defense of negative publicity? ›

If your company is dealing with negative publicity, a press release can and should be your first line of defense to properly handle the situation.

What is the greatest advantage to publicity? ›

Publicity through public relations gives credibility to your business as the content is more authentic and informative. Studies indicate that PR gives more visibility and credibility among the consumer market than advertising which is perceived as more promotional.

What did P.T. Barnum do wrong? ›

He not only launched what would become a century and a half of cruelty to animals in circuses but also began his career by exploiting African-Americans and people with disabilities.

What important lesson do we learn from P.T. Barnum? ›

Barnum and those in the circus stayed focused and embraced who they were. They disregarded the negativity around them. Don't let others bring you down. Don't let others be too influential in your life, especially the ones who are critical of you and what you are accomplishing.

What is Mark Twain most famous quote? ›

"Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well."

How do you turn negative PR into positive? ›

We're going to deep dive but in order to change negative PR to positive, keep these tips in mind:
  1. Don't be defensive.
  2. Be apologetic and humble.
  3. Correct misinformation and offer proof.
  4. Reinforce facts to improve credibility.
  5. Promote the positive sides of your brand.
May 16, 2022

How should you respond to the bad publicity public relations social media? ›

How to Deal with Negative Comments on Social Media
  1. Respond to the comment as soon as possible.
  2. Be apologetic.
  3. Discuss the problem privately.
  4. Appreciate their feedback.
  5. Ask them how you can help, and help.
  6. Don't delete their comments.
  7. Pick your battles.
  8. Don't delete their comments.
May 13, 2022

Can negative publicity be good for business? ›

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.

What is the saying all publicity is good publicity? ›

Quick Reference. Proverbial saying, early 20th century, meaning that it is always preferable to have attention focused on a name than to be unnoticed.

What does no bad press mean? ›

phrase. 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.

Is there such thing as bad attention? ›

Attention can be both positive and negative. Positive attention refers to things you do to let your child know you like something she did. Negative attention happens when you give your child attention for something you don't like.

What is the main purpose of public relations? ›

The aim of public relations is to inform the public, prospective customers, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders, and persuade them to maintain a positive or favorable view about the organization, its leadership, products, or political decisions.

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."

Why is public relations so important? ›

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.

Is bad publicity still 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.

Why is all publicity not good publicity? ›

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. While short-term awareness may be tempting, this is made at the expense of the business' long-term reputation.

Is negative publicity bad? ›

In the unfortunate case of the notable event being unpleasant or not all that good one, the company receives a wider publicity generally termed as negative publicity. Negative because it damages the company's public image and leaves company in a bad feeling. The chances are that the company may lose its customers.

How can bad publicity be good? ›

In contrast, through increasing awareness, negative publicity may increase sales when product awareness or accessibility is low. If few people know about a book released by a new author, any publicity, regardless of valence, should increase awareness.


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