Is all publicity good publicity?

Author: Philippa Lowe
Published: 6 November 2018

Is all publicity good publicity?

We all learn, somewhere along the line, that “any publicity is good publicity.” The old adage makes sense on the surface but it’s concerning to us that many people really believe it’s true. We think there’s a little more to PR than just ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

All publicity is … publicity.

It’s true that no matter whether it’s good, bad or ugly, all publicity is good for creating awareness surrounding a brand, product or service. If you’re only interested in getting your name out there, regardless of whether it’s seen in a negative or a positive light, then there’s no need to lose sleep over your publicity. Unfortunately, we believe that it takes a little more than just awareness to get customers over the line. Consumers need to know, like and trust you before they buy and mere awareness doesn’t mean that you’re likeable or trustworthy – it would be nice if it were that simple!

Awareness can be fantastic in the right circumstances

In a 2010 Stanford study, the sales and reviews of over 240 fiction books reviewed in the New York Times from 2001-2003 were analysed. Some of the results were what you would expect – good reviews increased sales across the board and for established authors, a negative review caused a 15% drop in sales – but for authors who were relatively unknown, negative reviews actually lifted sales by an average of 45%.

Awareness is not to be snubbed – it’s clear that it can be imperative to sales in the right circumstances. In fact, according to Profitero any reviews are better than none. When a product goes from having no reviews to having just one, it receives a 108% traffic lift and a 65% increase in the conversion rate. Many people even consider overwhelmingly positive reviews to be suspicious, so bad reviews clearly have their place.

Bad publicity is what you make of it

There are some PR disasters that are so huge that bouncing back seems like an insurmountable task – think of Malaysian Airlines or BP – but for most organisations coming up against negative talk in the media or even through their own online reviews, bad publicity’s benefits can be found in the way the organisation responds.

All reviews are excellent for building awareness, good reviews help your customers to trust you and bad reviews give you an opportunity to respond, showing your organisation’s values, personality and management of a crisis.

Not all bad publicity has to be the end of the world

No organisation wants to be associated with a scandal or disaster – bad publicity shouldn’t be something that organisations strive towards. Even if you do want to inject a little bit of controversy to get everyone talking, it’s worth weighing up the risks before you go ahead. Bad news travels fast in this era of Twitter, do you want to risk being liked and trusted, just for being known?

Have you found yourself facing bad publicity? Incredible Communications can help you to build trust and likeability. Email us at or call 0414 711 107.