Publicity is vital for getting more customers to your business, but can negative press lead to more business?
We often hear that there is no such thing as bad publicity – and we often hear that statement hotly debated. A major PR scandal, such as the one that got AT&T’s new $100 million lawsuits alleging that they regularly discriminate against different races, often seems like it’s a death knell for companies. Even though bad publicity has regularly caused major hits to companies that are deemed too big to fail, people still often believe that there’s an upside to bad publicity. So, can bad publicity lead to good PR? It really depends on the situation.
There is a point of no return for bad press and a bad reputation. Back in the day, once-ubiquitous Enron was completely devastated when phone conversations with its corrupt corporate cronies were leaked to news companies. After the leak, the company was shut down permanently. Another example of a company that was once highly respected that quickly lost its ability to earn was Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong brand. Will Livestrong ever be as big as it used to be? Probably not. However, there are many, many cases in which a company can turn bad publicity into good PR or money.
In most cases, what matters more is how people react to an unfurling scandal. For example, a company that immediately fires an employee who was caught using a racial slur towards a customer is a company that people will look favorably upon. This is because it shows that the company is proactive in keeping a positive environment, is honest in its dealings, and also doesn’t tolerate bad behavior. By addressing things quickly, in a professional manner, you can get good press from a bad move.
If you choose to take a stranger route, such as Amy’s Baking Company did, you can use bad press to make money without bothering to improve your reputation. After Amy’s massive blowups on Facebook, her insane rants on television, and both her and her husband managing to aggravate Gordon Ramsay to the point that he refused to help them on national television, it seems that people actually will buy t-shirts and gear with the weird stuff she’s said on TV. That being said, the Amy’s Baking Company strategy is not an advisable one. No one is really sure how that bakery is still open, all things considered. Because bad publicity can irreparably harm your company’s reputation and profits, we obviously are not going to suggest you go out of your way to cultivate it.
That being said, even if you do end up in a PR scandal, it doesn’t have to mean that your company will shut down. As long as you work to correct it, chances are that you will be able to turn things around. And, since it’s easier than ever to work to improve your online reputation and interact with customers, now is the easiest time to quell a PR scandal before it really affects your company.