Good News for Bad PR People
Last month, The Economist reported on a recent study titled, "Positive Effects of Negative Publicity: When Negative Reviews Increase Sales," by Jonah Berger, Alan T. Sorensen and Scott J. Rasmussen, which drew some interesting conclusions.
Guess what? Not all bad PR is bad after all. In fact, if you're a small, relatively unknown company or if your product or service is little known, botching PR might actually be a good thing. There’s always been a few in PR that would say there’s no such thing as bad PR.
This report not only serves to validate those conclusions in some situations, but taken one step further helps justify what we should as good practitioners do as a rote activity.
There's no surprise this report came out just before one of the oddest PR campaigns put on by a middle-aged, famous sitcom star. I prefer to keep his name to “He Who Shall Not be Named.” He doesn’t need one more blog helping him extend his PR campaign. The overall point of the PR swirl of activity seemed to show said actor voicing his strong opinions on life, his soon-to-be-former employer and, of course, on what it takes to win.
In a classic measurement sense, he was off the charts. In social media circles, he generated more followers on Twitter without having to constantly tweet, begging for followers to reach new milestones, than any other Twitterer to date. Fairly impressive. He did more interviews in a few weeks than Cy Young has career victories. Again, impressive. All without the help of his publicist who, some would argue, saw what was about to transpire and felt it best to move on and let the spectacle continue without his support and guidance.
Now we’re at a point where thanks to what could be construed as a bad PR campaign, many wonder what next? It probably has more to do with our innate curiosity to see a train wreck happen and to just sit and watch, fascinated by the whole spectacle. Based on early reactions to the North American tour though, we may not be done.
Which ties back to the findings in the study around bad PR for smaller companies and little known brands. In the example of the middle-aged sitcom star, he had little help. But the “results” generated may lead many to believe it was successful. Much in the same way that The Economist study found that when you have little presence, botching a PR exercise or campaign could pay off in spades. I have to tell you, there’s nothing more frustrating than reading yet another example where common sense along with good communications skills don’t seem to make the headline.
I’d suggest revisiting many of the great blogs that came out from the 4-4-4 communications series inspired by some of the greater minds in PR today (Steve Farnsworth, Todd Defren, Paul Roberts and Lou Hoffman.)
From my perspective, it's as simple as doing your homework/research, providing an interesting angle (that’s less sensational and perhaps based in more than an oddity) and looking for quality over quantity. I think we as PR professionals should do more to cry foul on our own profession and work to educate and provide a little more common sense before applauding the efforts of a few bad PR practices, stunts or exercises driven solely to inspire the moment and not lead to a longer and more lasting impact.
While the study did note that for larger companies and more well known brands, bad PR can be a bad thing, the fact that some may think that "All PR is Good PR," isn't good.
What do you think? Are we as PR practitioners doing ourselves a disservice by accepting bad PR practices as okay?