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Negative Publicity and How to React to it

You’ve probably heard of the popular saying, “all publicity is good publicity.” While there may be examples of individuals or brands that have come out on top after a bad PR incident, how true is that statement?

Well, here’s sort of an answer: No brand (hopefully) plans on receiving bad publicity intentionally. When 4 million barrels of oil flooded into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the employees at BP surely weren’t sitting back in their chairs with wide smiles on their faces. But, can bad publicity work?

If you ask any question like that, there are sure to be countless examples on either side. Bad publicity, although almost always negative, has worked in the past--especially when it comes to individuals.

You may or may not have heard of Tekashi 6ix9ine, a popular Brooklyn-based rapper who has thrived off of negative publicity since his rise to stardom in 2017. While his antics have earned him billions of streams, his negative image has and will continue to hinder his abilities to land major endorsements and partake in other endeavors that could otherwise make him more money.

Obviously, negative publicity isn’t always intentional. After 2010, if someone asks what you think of BP, one of the first things you’ll surely think about is the oil spill. A negative PR incident can damage a brand’s reputation for years to come, no matter how accidental it was.

How can negative publicity be avoided? That question may be harder to answer than you think. The majority of brands seem to avoid major negative publicity. The ones that do, however, often never see it coming. It’s difficult to say that negative publicity is completely avoidable, as the majority of those incidents were uncalled for.

The best piece of advice to give is to double, triple, even quadruple-check every piece of content that comes out, every PR campaign, every statement. You can’t let anything go overlooked. And if a PR disaster does occur, lead with honesty and transparency.

Mistakes, big or small, can (and most likely will) be made from time to time, the difference between a bad PR incident and a minor slip-up is how well the brand reacted and adapted to the incident, as well as how that brand laid its foundation. A brand that leads with honesty and transparency is far more likely to gain the trust of its supporters. A brand that has more loyal supporters will likely stay afloat if a negative incident occurs.