P.T. Barnum, the 19th century American showman and entrepreneur, has been often credited with this quotation. He became famous pitching oddities and hoax’s to draw crowds to his circus and performances. Barnum relied on publicity in traditional newspapers and word of mouth to promote his shows. Gossip about his strange or bizarre acts were sure to fill the grandstands with paying spectators. For P.T. Barnum, There was no such thing as bad publicity.
Today, the sheer number of news outlets and 24 hour coverage of every event worldwide has created a much different environment for publicity. Gaffes by politicians get picked up by every news outlet and quickly spread like a wild fire. Just this past week, with the killing of 4 Americans including the Ambassador to Libya, both the President and GOP candidate Mitt Romney have made some gaffes in reacting to the news stories. Did these gaffes hurt either candidate or just give them more press coverage?
The 2010 oil rig disaster in the Gulf is a publicity nightmare for BP. The environmental impact is considered the worst in history and BP is expected to pay out upwards of $100 billion dollars in damages, claims, lawsuits and fines. The bad publicity continues as news stories continue to report on the updates and ongoing claims. The handling of the situation is a case study on poor public relations. When you hear the company name BP, do you have a positive or negative reaction?
So, yes there is such a thing as bad publicity. It tends to effect companies or people that are already at the top of their industry or profession. For a small unknown business or person, even bad publicity can help launch a product or launch a career. Just this week, Alison Pill, actress, tweeted a picture of herself topless supposedly by mistake. Even with the riots in the Middle East, the news media picked up on this story and now Alison Pill has even more notoriety and followers on tweeter. I didn’t know her by name but I do now. @davidawolf