Is there such a thing as bad publicity?

Written by Bridget Beach

As the old adage goes, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” This phrase implies that being talked about, regardless of the context, cannot be a bad thing, because, hey, at least people are paying attention.  

Whether or not publicity can be bad depends a lot on who you are and what your goal is. If you’re an individual (like a celebrity or influencer) who is simply seeking attention and buzz, it doesn’t necessarily matter what people are saying. Azealia Banks is an example of someone who often trends or makes headlines for what some people may consider bad reasons, but it doesn’t really affect her brand or following in a negative way. Sometimes, it actually has a positive effect.

The same is not always true for businesses or organizations. Usually, bad press is just bad. It negatively affects people’s view, which can lead to financial consequences. For example, BP’s 2010 oil spill is still discussed, and today, many people still dislike BP for this incident.

Why can individuals survive bad press but entities cannot?

While problematic people can still find success, continue to make money, and maintain a following through bad press, many entities do not seem to have this luck. Why is this so?

I think this is largely due to the fact that an individual is so much more accessible, or they at least appear accessible. They’re more real. People begin to like them for their personality, their opinions, and their sass – they like them for who they are. This can’t really translate to businesses or organizations. Businesses and organizations must maintain a level of professionalism that an individual does not. An individual can be rude, poke fun, and clap back in a much more realistic way than a professional entity can. Yes, it may have branding, but that pales in comparison to an individual’s unique personality. An individual can support controversial causes that they care about that businesses and organizations may remain tight-lipped or release a generic statement about. 

Their authenticity sets them apart. 

People love realness. In fact, communication researchers have found that as many as 90% of customers cite authenticity as relevant when deciding if they like or want to support a brand. 

What can PR pros learn from these individuals?

Authenticity is simple in theory, yet difficult to execute. Traditional branding and professionalism on social media have their place, of course, but should be used in conjunction with social media engagement that feels authentic to the audience. While it may not be possible for a brand to encompass all the things that make certain individuals so enduring through bad press, utilizing certain methods of engagement can help boost your brand.


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