You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘all publicity is good publicity’ or ‘there is no bad publicity’. This is the idea that all media attention – positive or negative – can be good for business, because it helps build exposure for your brand. If nobody’s heard of you, bad publicity can be a way of putting you on the map, and the belief is that some people will then still try your business out of curiosity or remember your name but not the reason why.
There are definitely companies in the past that have bounced back from PR disasters and there are companies that have even used bad publicity to their advantage. But on the whole, bad publicity is not good for business – and this is becoming increasingly more common in this era of cancel culture and sue culture. Below are just a few reasons as to why you should be careful of creating controversy and why you should avoid negative publicity in 2023.
Customers are more socially conscious
Today’s customers are not just sold on the price and quality of a product/service – they also care about the impact that a product has on the planet and society. In fact, one study found that as much as 70% of customers want to know what brands are doing to address social and environmental issues.
More of us actively seek out companies that are environmentally-friendly or that are fair to workers. At the same time, more of us are willing to boycott a company that has been accused of doing something unethical. This is a result of increased exposure to issues on social media and TV.
Companies can still crawl back from a scandal by proving to the world that they have changed – however this transformation often doesn’t get quite as much media attention as the scandal beforehand.
News spreads fast
The internet has enabled news of scandals to spread much faster and wider than ever before. This makes it much harder to reduce the negative impact of a scandal – the whole world may know before you’ve even had a chance to issue an apology.
Social media is a big part of this – people are able to more easily share news with friends and followers, exposing it to people who would have otherwise never seen it or cared. People’s comments on social media can also be a lot more unforgiving than a news story from a publication – casting an even darker cloud over a brand.
Google never forgets
It used to be much easier for the general public to forget negative news stories. Nowadays, they can be permanently found on the internet. A negative scandal that gains lots of attention to your business could show up in your company’s Google results for years after.
By hiring a search engine optimisation company, it may be possible to increase the rankings of more positive news stories and pages to reduce the amount of people that stumble across this negative press. However, the article will always be there on the internet and it only takes one person to re-share it on social media to reignite the outrage.
Everything has a digital trace
It’s also much easier for customers to demand payback nowadays because everything has a digital trace. Receipts and contracts can be easily dug up in email inboxes. This makes it easy for other customers to jump on the bandwagon once one customer reveals something bad online.
This digital evidence not only makes for more damning media attention, but it can also make it easier for more customers to successfully win lawsuits – whereas a customer may have thrown out a receipt or contract in the past, more customers can now access these receipts and contracts to use as evidence in court. This can make bad publicity much more expensive.
Writing legally tight contracts and having solicitors on call can help to reduce the damage. Of course, avoiding all bad publicity through good ethics and by watching what you say is the best protective measure you can take.