All Publicity Good? No!

JohnLandsberg
January 4th, 2012

Rarely does a week go by when a friend or client makes the statement, “Well, all publicity is good publicity…”

No it isn’t. Simply getting ANY exposure for your business is not a great strategy. In fact, it likely could be disastrous.

When clients make that statement I often say, “So if your company’s revenues start to plummet should we send out a news release and let the world know about it?” “How about if you have a product that is found to be harmful to the environment, should we schedule a media tour for you?”

All publicity is not good publicity. What people really mean is all POSITIVE publicity is good publicity.

Is there anyone in the free world who believes that the recent publicity surrounding Tiger Woods is somehow helping him? It was positive publicity that formed the image and brand of Tiger Woods. It is negative publicity that may undo all the hard work that went into shaping his brand image over the years.

The rise and fall of Woods’s image is a fascinating case study for media and marketing people. His image was as well-groomed and protected as anyone in history—in sports or not. He was cultured, well-spoken, humble, and, most importantly a winner. People love a winner.

In fact, his image was almost bullet-proof. Do any rational individuals honestly believe that numerous members of media had no idea of his ongoing philandering? Many of them looked the other way just to have an opportunity to get an elusive interview with him. It was just an honor to them to get a few precious moments to speak with the great golfer.

Businesses do not have the luxury of such media fawning. In reality a good business scandal or failure is something many journalists in the media enjoy. It has always struck me funny that many journalists despise businesses and businesspeople, but fail to realize (until very recently) that they were working for businesses just as focused on the bottom line as much as any Wall Street investment firm.

It is obvious the goal of any business is to generate as much positive exposure as possible. However, in an era of “Twitter,” “Facebook” and other social media outlets what can your business do to protect itself against bad exposure?

First—and most importantly—listen.
Make sure someone in your organization is monitoring what is being said about your company. While there are programs that can search for any mention of your company on the Internet, it does not take any time to simply “Google” your company’s name and check the search results. Another good source is the “Pipl” site.

Listen to what is being said about your company—positively and negatively. Should you respond to it? Sometimes and sometimes not. A few bloggers have written some nasty and untrue things about my company that I can only hope a rational person would dismiss. Sometimes trying to respond is fruitless. There is a lot of garbage on the Internet, particularly via anonymous posters, that can be dismissed.

But let’s say you come across someone who writes that a certain product you offer is awful and recommends no one buy it. Even worse, the poster says he/she has tried to contact your company and found it unresponsive. Viral word-of-mouth can be devastating.

At that point you need to respond swiftly, positively and honestly. Try to determine why the poster had issues with your product and try to create an open dialogue. If your company screwed up, admit it and say what you will do to correct the situation.

An image of your company or brand is something that must be carefully monitored, managed and enhanced on an ongoing basis. If you lose control of it you can be in big trouble. Just ask Tiger Woods or Penn State or…

(John Landsberg is the president of Bottom Line Communications, a Public Relations firm based in Leawood. He is also an adjunct professor of marketing, sales and public relations. www.bottomlinecom.com. Please credit this site when reprinting.)

Leave a Reply

  • TIME WILL TELL IF TARGET’S PR TACTIC IS SUCCESSFUL

    Public Relations practitioners are experts at taking advantage of current events in order to generate positive publicity for clients.

    After the 911 attacks, companies lined up to show their support for the War on Terror.  Anything they could do for the troops and their families was fair game with the hope they would receive some media recognition for their efforts.

    Whenever there is a natural disaster anywhere in the country companies are quick to jump in with monetary support, supplies and other forms of assistance. They have learned their best chance for positive coverage is to announce a donation as soon as possible.

    The reason for all this corporate goodwill?   Obviously, to show their companies in a positive light.  However, the over-riding goal should be to generate additional revenue and profits in the short or long-term.

    In 2013, Target  experienced a major retail disaster when it had more than 40 million credit cards compromised during the 2013 holiday shopping season. That may have resulted in the theft of as many as 110 million people’s personal information, such as email addresses and phone numbers.

    After the breach, Target saw its profits fall an astounding 46 percent, according to Forbes (link).  To add insult to injury, just last month the company was forced to shell out $10 million in a class action lawsuit to settle credit card claims (link).

    Target needed some positive publicity and needed it quickly.  A current hot issue involved transgender people after North Carolina said transgender people must use the restroom that corresponds to their birth certificate.  Some performers like Bruce Springsteen immediately jumped on the issue, but no corporations had joined the fray.

    Target very likely saw an opportunity to general positive publicity for its “inclusivity” by jumping on the issue.  The beauty of it was there was virtually no cost for the PR effort.  To offer to build unisex restrooms could cost millions of dollars.  This involved no more than issuing a statement:

    “We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity,” the retailer said in a statement. “Everyone deserves to feel like they belong.”

    Target-boycott

    As the company likely anticipated, initial publicity was overwhelmingly positive.  The news media applauded the company for its politically correct stance on behalf of the LGBT community.

    However, within days, it seemed the tide of public opinion about Target started to turn in another direction.  In less than a week nearly one million customers signed a petition generated by the American Family Association saying they would boycott Target stores (Link).

    Stories began to appear involving men in Target restrooms attempting to take pictures.  The social media backlash to Target, particularly on the influential Breitbart News Network, was fierce.

    And now it seems Target is on an island with its controversial policy.  No other major retailer has jumped on the Target bandwagon.  Most, like Walmart, very likely staying quiet while hoping to skim off Target customers.

    Even Starbucks, considered a leader in political correctness, has not weighed in (Link).

    Was Target wrong to jump on the issue?   Only time will tell.  It obviously did not anticipate the fierce backlash by its customer base.  It most likely will not prove to be a move that will increase its bottom line.

    Companies have to be very cautious when jumping on issues for publicity.  After Chick-fil-A’s CEO came out against gay marriage the LGBT community attempted a boycott of the chain.  Customers responded so strongly that Chick-fil-A’s sales actually increased.

    After a character on the TV show “Duck Dynasty” said he was against gay marriage the restaurant chain Cracker Barrel quickly announced it was removing all Duck Dynasty merchandise from its stores.  That hasty decision was not thought through very well despite Jesse Jackson throwing his support behind the restaurant.

    Cracker Barrel quickly realized it had made a huge mistake.  Its loyal customers were furious and let the chain know they would be taking their business elsewhere.   Within three days Cracker Barrel was forced to completely rescind its decision (Link) and ask for forgiveness.

    Target was quick to publicize its restroom policy, but now the company now steadfastly refuses to reveal if the boycott is hurting sales.  That will be the key whether this program is successful or not.

    Target’s decision may pan out in the long run as an effective PR tactic.  If sales and profits grow it will be time for high-fives in the corporate boardroom.

    However,  it could also be a decision its shareholders will regret for years to come.  Only time will tell.

    (Update: Signers to the petition have now surpassed the one-million mark.  Target’s stock has lost $1.5 billion.)

    Published April 28, 2016 at 10:35 am - No Comments Public Relations practitioners are experts at taking advantage of current events in order to generate positive publicity for clients. After the 911 attacks, companies lined up to show their support for the War on Terror.  Anythin ...

  • MIZZOU NEEDS CRISIS PLAN TO RESTORE IMAGE

    In Journalism circles, having a degree from the University of Missouri was often a ticket for success. It is not only the nation’s oldest Journalism school, it is also one of the most prestigious.

    When rankings for the best “J” schools in the nation are posted the University of Missouri is almost guaranteed to be in the Top 10 or Top 5.  However, that may have all changed due to the actions of a single media professor during the recent student uprising at the school.

    A Mass Media Professor, Melissa Click, is shown in a video asking for “muscle” to remove a student photojournalist, Tim Tai,  who was working for ESPN and in a public place.   It is a horrible act by a college professor and shows a total disregard for the Journalist’s First Amendment rights, which is against what the school has taught for decades.

    “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here,” says Click.

    A video of Click’s actions against Tai has gone viral and has well over 500,000 views (LINK) on a single site.  The New York Times has written an extensive story about her actions.

    What was once a sympathetic media for the protesters has now changed with the actions of students and faculty against them.

    Technically some have pointed out Click works in the Mass Media Division of the Department of Communications in College of Arts & Sciences, which is separate from the J-school.  However, she is listed on the School of Journalism’s site (LINK), which tars the entire Journalism program whether it deserves it or not.

    Click had earlier Tweeted out that she she was looking for coverage of the event by Journalists.  Later on she is clearly leading the charge against other Journalists with total disregard for their rights to cover the event.

    With the resignation of the school’s President and Chancellor the University of Missouri is clearly being painted as a college where the inmates are running the asylum.   Rather than act like a Professor, Click and other faculty members have clearly shown they were behind the student protests against the administration.

    If the University of Missouri doesn’t hire a crisis communications team immediately its entire image for producing quality Journalism graduates could likely be tarnished forever. If the school was wise it already had a crisis communications plan in place for such an incident, but that is unlikely.

    The first move would be to remove Click. But that would be a stop-gap measure since a faculty member helping foment the disturbance was an indictment on all the faculty.  The school hired her, and whether tacitly or not, approved of her actions.

    A statement issued today by the Dean of the Journalism School denied she was part of the faculty and sounded as if her days as a professor at Missouri were numbered. Click has also been forced to apologize in an attempt to save her job and resigned her “courtesy” appointment to the J-School.

    However, a Kansas City reporter told BLC that the protesters are refusing to speak with local reporters and will only do interviews with national media outlets.  That is the kind of move that will turn sympathetic local media against them now and in the future.

    It’s a bad move.

     

     

    Published November 10, 2015 at 10:23 am - 5 Comments In Journalism circles, having a degree from the University of Missouri was often a ticket for success. It is not only the nation’s oldest Journalism school, it is also one of the most prestigious. When rankings for the best ...