All Publicity Good? No!

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. Please credit this site when reprinting.)

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