I can tell you firsthand that opinions vary widely on this subject. As a former journalist, I’ve had people avoid me at all costs, and I’ve had people keep me on speed dial. When I first left my reporting career behind for public relations, my press friends teased that I was a traitor, recruited to work for the “other side.”
Jokes aside, I didn’t get into PR out of hatred for the media. On the contrary, I felt my background would allow me to establish strong media relationships. When you’re looking for publicity, the media is your friend, and how you use the spotlight they’ve bestowed upon you is entirely up to you.
But I realize there are times when you aren’t actively seeking exposure, and said spotlight is like the sun beaming down into your eyes while you’re trying to drive. You can’t see what’s ahead, and you really just hope you can navigate yourself out alive.
As someone who’s worked the press from both sides, I’ve been asked countless times for my take on the notion that there’s no such thing as bad press. Is it true that all publicity is good publicity? My official answer is simple: No.
Though people will dispute it anyway, this is an indisputable fact. Just ask BP if they’re happy about the coverage they got for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Or Target if they were happy when customers found out about their data breach. Or Kanye West when — okay, well, maybe there’s one person out there who loves bad press, but you get my point. Most people don’t really succeed because of bad press, which isn’t to say they can’t succeed in spite of it.
People become relatable when they show imperfection. They become admirable when they show integrity, when they admit their shortcomings and develop a plan for overcoming them. It’s why job interviewers ask job applicants about times they’ve failed and what they did about it. It isn’t always easy to fail gracefully, but if you do, it’s possible to recover. (This is why so many companies, even smaller companies, are budgeting for PR powerhouses to help them navigate the often rough waters of the digital era where your reputation can be salvaged or permanently damaged in record time.)
The lesson here though is not to run from the press. In fact, whatever you do, don’t go into hiding after a publicity nightmare (assuming it really is a publicity nightmare, which I’ll talk about in another post). Nobody respects a coward.
Of course, best case scenario, you only get positive press and lots of it. I’ll cover whether it’s possible to tip the odds in your favor in a future post.