Is Any PR, Good PR?


Beyond the entertainment value we may all be experiencing this election season, there’s enough content coming out that would provide fodder for many year’s worth of blogs. However, without going into too much detail on what’s being said by whom, suffice it to say, there’s a lasting impression that’s been created that “Any PR is good PR.” It must be, otherwise why would reports surface that one candidate has earned $2 Billion in “free” media coverage around their campaign alone – and that was back in March, imagine the number now?

As many of us know in PR and communications, as long as you’re relevant and always top of mind for people, why should it matter what the sentiment is? Why would anyone care if the coverage was positive, negative or neutral?

Therein lies the rub. If we as communications professionals only care about “raising awareness” without factoring in what kind of awareness it is, then we run the risk of doing ourselves and our clients a disservice. Sure, there are publicity stunts, some planned (take Lyft’s free DeLorean rides for Back to the Future Day last year) and some unplanned (Oreo’s, blackouts and the Super Bowl), that help accomplish what a communications team may have set up; however, if you don’t factor in the overall outcome, i.e. did my message/activity/campaign leave a favorable or unfavorable impression then you are only getting a fraction of the picture. It should be more than just hope that the outcome is favorable.

It may be that whenever a “negative” story starts to break, or in the case of what we are seeing on a daily basis at the moment, when everyone is responding to what they are hearing/seeing, the outcome can be fuzzy at best. With that said, there are three things you should consider to avoid free negative publicity:

Does it pass the sniff test: We like to call this the family test. If, as you are explaining something, you find the reaction from a family member to be anything less than savory, then chances are you they’re right. For many of us that work in technology PR for example, it may mean putting sometimes extremely technical terms and concepts into layman’s terms, or helping to translate something so it’s easier to understand. For example, a zettabyte can be a little too esoteric but when you say, “the informational equivalent of every person on earth receiving 174 newspapers per day,” then it becomes a little more accessible.

If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck and walks like a duck…: Then chances are, it’s a duck. There’s nothing worse than trying to convince anybody that what is really happening, isn’t. Or that what they believe to be the truth in fact isn’t. You can mess with perception but you will need facts, figures and data to support your viewpoint. Otherwise, don’t be surprised to be the focus of an upcoming Saturday Night Live skit.

PR impressions can last a while: Even though we’re all looking forward to watching what could be the most significant movie of the year, “Hacksaw Ridge,” the director, Mel Gibson, is still battling the results of his actions from a DUI more than ten years ago. Why? He created the kind of exposure he certainly wished he hadn’t.

So, while we all look forward to the conclusion of this year’s election results, keep in mind, that any PR isn’t always good PR. Or, at least, you should factor in desired outcomes. If you don’t, you run the risk of having the story spin out of control, or worse!