Publicity is all around us; now more than ever. Our eyes and ears are constantly fed information from all angles – we love it – we hate it – we crave it! We create new channels, we seek out more information, more detail – we want to know EVERYTHING about the celebrities we admire and even the ones we don’t! We get to do what we only dreamt of in the past – actually interact with our favourite celebrities, through the likes of Twitter and Facebook; gaining insights into their daily lives; even what they had for breakfast! The relationship goes both ways; if a celebrity takes the time to put the effort in and actually write their own blogs, tweets and posts, they have the opportunity to build more intimate relationships with their fan base – that all important, long-lasting emotional engagement, which to us marketers is the Holy Grail!
What about if the relationship turns sour?
Although publicity can be very rewarding for both parties; taking celebrity beyond superficiality – what about if the relationship turns sour? Like any other human, celebrities make mistakes – they speak (or post) before they think sometimes, forgetting for a second how much responsibility rests on their shoulders or how deeply people will think about what they say, no matter how insignificant it may have seemed to the celebrity at the time.
I am using celebrities as an example, but the same principle goes for businesses and any other public entity. Like any relationship, it’s the way you deal with ‘bad publicity’ that can make or break your relationship with your stakeholders.
PR is all powerful, now more than ever
Public opinion is everything – opinions are shared and reviews are readily available for any product or service that you may wish to purchase. Anyone with a public profile needs to be conscious of this and place this fact at the core of their communications strategies, if their career and / or business is to survive.
I was once asked (in a panicked tone of voice) to arrange for the removal of a scathing post about the organization I was working for at the time. It was posted to Facebook by the spouse of a disgruntled member of staff. There were some significant contractual changes taking place within the organization; some tough decisions were being made to ensure its long-term survival and it’s safe to say, many of the changes were not well received. My response: 1. We cannot remove this, even if we wanted to; 2. Even if we could, people have now seen this post and responded to it. Therefore, if it was removed, we would not only be coming across as opaque, rather than transparent, but we would be perpetuating the ‘them and us’ culture we were working so hard to move away from. In short, it would be entirely counterproductive. The best way to deal with this, was to minimize the damage by pushing out positive content through all channels and ensure that we had an appropriate response to the negative post, should the press pick up on it and request comment.
In this example, the negative publicity wasn’t damaging to the organization – it had been fuelled by emotion, rather than fact and this had been immediately evident to anyone who read it. However, the manner in which the organization responded could have done so much damage, particularly to the already strained relationship with employees. As it turned out, the ‘positive publicity push’ response, raised awareness of the organization and the whole situation went on to support the justification for a full digital and social media strategy for the organization (who had been previously ‘dragging their feet’). Great!
The statement, ‘All publicity is good publicity’, is much too general
Gaining positive results from negative publicity is dependent on so many factors:
- How ‘business critical’ the negative publicity was
- How visible it was
- Who said it (how influential they are)
- How you responded
- How timely you were in your response
- How visible it was
- Who demonstrated support for you / your business – how influential your supporters are.
So, ‘Is ALL publicity GOOD publicity?’ – Not necessarily. Like any relationship, it should be handled with care. And the short answer – it’s complicated!