Negative publicity can destroy your brand’s reputation in the blink of an eye. The good news is you can avoid bad press if you plan ahead and take time to develop a proactive PR strategy.

Do you need help building an effective PR strategy? Pressfarm specializes in developing memorable content and carrying out media outreach for brands like yours. By writing press releases, developing creative media kits, and helping you find the right journalists, our team prides itself in generating positive publicity for brands like yours.

In addition to developing this content, we can also help you to put it in front of the right eyes. By submitting your content to the right media outlets and startup directories, we can boost your online visibility. We also provide you with custom media lists and a media database of 1 million+ journalists, bloggers, and influencers. With these comprehensive contact details, you can continue doing media outreach for up to a year.

The goal of this article is to help you develop a memorable reputation for your brand.

What is PR?

The PR business is the Persuasion Business. You are basically trying to convince your target audience to promote your product, support your position, and recognize your accomplishments. If you want to get technical about it, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

PR is all about telling a story to advance your brand’s agenda. Public relations is also used to protect, enhance and build a brand’s reputation through paid, owned, and earned media. A good PR company should be able to analyze the company, craft positive stories and manage the company’s reputation in the face of negative messages.

Ultimately, PR is all about shaping an image, it mainly exists to generate positive publicity for businesses and create a good reputation. In order to do this, PR professionals can use a variety of approaches, including:

  • Handling consumer relations
  • Writing and distributing press releases
  • Hosting events for public outreach
  • Managing media relations
  • Conducting market research
  • Building your network
  • Social media marketing
  • Crisis management

What is Good PR

A good PR campaign is one that creates a favorable brand image. It must be well planned so that it has a positive lasting impact on your brand’s reputation. Effective PR goes beyond simply writing a press release to raise brand awareness. In order for it to be effective, you must combine several approaches such as the ones outlined above. If you implemented good PR, it can attract national media attention, boost sales dramatically, and create a positive relationship between your business and your target audience.

Let us break this down for you:

1) Good PR is informing and telling clients what they need to hear instead of what they want to hear.

2) Good PR is about recognizing that the best “PR strategy” is one that is followed with good products/services. Failure to do so will result in wasted efforts and harm the reputation of the company and PR firm.

3) Good PR is not just about the launch. Effective PR is continuous and long-term. You need to sustain brand support and hopefully change consumer behavior through a steady stream of relevant communication to both media outlets and your target audience.

4) Good PR recognizes that there needs to be an organic relationship between your brand and its clients. A good PR professional welcomes feedback from clients, even if it is negative.

5) Good PR is proactive and responsive in a crisis and always has a plan if something goes wrong

6) Good PR is not immediately measurable in tangible ways. Don’t use your profits alone to evaluate the success of your PR strategy. Sometimes the kind of relationships you have built with the public and the brand image you’ve built for yourself is a more accurate indicator.

7) Good PR is about building and maintaining positive long-term relationships with your stakeholders. This includes both clients and the media.

Examples of Good PR campaigns

1) Burger King’s anti-bullying campaign

Statistics for Burger King Anti-bullying campaign - Negative Publicity

Image credits: pinterest.co.uk

This was considered to be one of the most interesting socially aware PR campaigns of 2018 and understandably so.

Burger King wanted to address the issue of bullying among both children and adults. Restaurant patrons were given a smashed burger and when they came up to complain, the workers told them that their burger was fine and even “bullied them” a little bit. However, at the same restaurant, a group of boys was actually bullying and physically humiliating one of their peers. It was shown that only 12% of people did anything to intervene. Interestingly enough, most of the people who intervened had received smashed burgers.

After the commercial aired, the percentage of people that did nothing said that it was just easier not to deal with it. On the other hand, the people who actually intervened said that they had been bullied in the past and they needed to do something to stop it.

This campaign went up during National Bullying Prevention Month and went viral after it aired. It was seen and shared by everyone on social media. PR campaigns that center on social issues can be a hit or miss. However, when done right, these campaigns really get people thinking about these issues and how to prevent them.

2) ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge”

Statistics for ALS ice bucket campaign

Image credit: omnicoreagency.com

Even though people knew about ALS, there were not a lot of people talking about it. So, in an attempt to spread awareness about it, ALS created the #IceBucketChallenge. In order to participate in the challenge, people had to dump a bucket of ice over their heads and nominate 3 friends to do the same through social media. This campaign went viral almost immediately.

Both celebrities and average people took part in the challenge and the association raised over $100 million, a significant increase from $2.8 million in 2013. The reason it worked so well is that the association chose a creative angle to get their point across and used influencer marketing to spread their message.

3) Dove – “Campaign for Real Beauty”

Dove Real Beauty campaign - Negative Publicity

Image credit: persuasion-and-influence.com

For a very long time, the media has shown the “ideal” of what a woman should look like. Since this artificial idea of a beautiful woman is based on airbrushed models, it has always placed unrealistic expectations on the average woman.

After doing a study that found that only 2% of women thought they were beautiful, Dove decided to take a stand against the unattainable standards of beauty being pushed by the media. They launched a campaign to celebrate the diversity of female beauty. The aim was to encourage women to be comfortable and happy with their natural beauty. Thanks to the ad, sales increased from $2.5 billion in the opening campaign year to $4 billion in 2014. Not only did the campaign help increase sales, but it also increased women’s confidence.

In addition to building a successful campaign, Dove also created a crisis management plan in case things went south. They established that just talking about the issue wasn’t enough and they need to put it into action. In order to do this, they partnered with different organizations to initiate discussions about online bullying. They also got involved in photography projects that captured the beauty that girls see in the world around them.

What is Bad PR

Now that you understand what good PR is, bad PR should be pretty self-explanatory, it is PR that damages a brand’s reputation. Here are some of the ways you can attract bad PR:

  • Poor timing

Timing is very important when it comes to creating any content to promote a brand or business. When a PR campaign is rushed, it’s easy for PR specialists to release content in a rush, without first thinking about the best time to publish this content.

  • Poor choice of language

When it comes to writing press releases, try to keep the language simple. Jargon and buzzwords do not impress media outlets and editors who have very little time to read what comes across their desks. You need to appeal to them and use language that they understand.

  • Poorly written press releases

The whole point of a press release is to grab the attention of your readers, get to the point you are trying to make quickly, and follow up with additional information. Grammatical errors, omissions, lengthy pitches, and poor structure are some of the reasons why press releases are overlooked and thrown away.

  • Poor follow-up:

If you want to make sure that journalists capture all the details of your brand story, you must be prepared for any follow-up questions which a journalist might call with. Many businesses tend to lose potential clients because they are not prepared or – worse still – they miss the phone call.

  • Too much hype

Avoid generalizations and exaggerations when appealing to the news media. You want to be positive, so supply them with objective facts and avoid superlatives. Any exaggerations can get tedious and can cause readers to get suspicious.

  • Press releases without purpose

It is important that businesses only send out press releases when there is something major to announce. Much like the boy you cried wolf, you don’t want to send out releases every time there is a small development in your business. If you nag a journalist with a new press release every week, then when something really important actually happens they might just hit delete before they ready anything.

  • Not knowing what is going on

It is important that you research what is going on around you and in your target market before you send out your press release. Do your research first so that you know how to frame your story.

  • Lack of planning

Businesses cannot achieve successful PR without a plan. You need to figure out the where, what, when, why, and how for everything that you wish to accomplish. It is also important to create a plan B just in case the original plan does not go the way you hoped it would.

  • Not thinking outside the box

There are so many different ways to reach out and generate attention for your business. If you stick to just one way, you may never be able to reach your full potential.

Bad PR can also come about when businesses take the “me first” approach. It is important for brands to build mutually beneficial relationships with media outlets before they even launch a PR campaign. Instead of treating journalists like a means to an end, your brand needs to build a give-and-take relationship.

Examples of Bad PR campaigns

1) H&M
Failed H&M PR campaign - Negative Publicity

Image credits: washingtonpost.com

In 2018, clothing company H&M fell under scrutiny after the image of a young black boy modeling a sweatshirt with “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” emerged on social media. Within a short time, people took to the internet to criticize the brand. In less than 24 hours, there were over 18,000 retweets and 23,000 likes from a tweet created by blogger Stephanie Yeboah. There was a raging debate on whether or not this image was racist, and this debate generated a lot of negative PR for the brand.

While H&M did issue an official statement the next day, the damage was already done. At first, they took the image of the boy down from their website and kept the image of the sweatshirt. However, people still had issues with this, so they decided to take the sweatshirt down.

The consequences didn’t end there. When musician The Weeknd, who had collaborated with H&M for their ad campaigns in 2017 announced that he was cutting ties with the brand because of the situation, they lost quite an important influencer, along with his audience.

H&M claimed that they do believe in diversity and inclusion, and they probably didn’t mean any harm with their campaign. However, racial insensitivity in marketing can damage a company’s reputation, especially if they claim to care about diversity and inclusion… It is important that companies really pay attention to the things that they are putting out into the market and the effect they might have on the public. While it may be true that you can’t please everyone, you need to understand the underlying nuances of everything you release to the public.

2) Nike
Nike's Oscar Pistorius campaign

Image credits: businessinsider.com

Nike is one of the biggest athletic wear brands in the world. While their products are durable, fashionable, and fit for major athletes, some of their PR campaigns may not have gone as well as they had planned.

As far as influencer marketing goes, Nike has had many headaches when it came to sponsoring athletes. As Nike has learned, pinning your company’s reputation on famous athletes can be quite risky. From Tiger Woods’ personal life to Lance Armstrong’s headlines about using drugs, and Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial, they’ve really had a rough time.

Nike was thrilled when Pistorius agreed to partner with them because they finally had an athlete who could attract an audience to sports for people with disabilities. They created an entire campaign around Pistorius, where they named him “The Bullet” and the “blade runner.”

Nike’s partnership with Pistorius bit them in the butt when Pistorius was charged for the murder of his girlfriend using a gun. While Nike couldn’t be blamed for Pistorius’ actions, their association with him damaged their reputation and they had to do some damage control after that campaign.

Crisis and reputation management expert Robbie Vorhaus says that when a brand is hit by a scandal on that scale involving an influencer, the best way to deal with it is to move on. It’s true that cutting an influencer marketing campaign short can cost a brand quite a lot of money. However, if said brand really wants to redeem itself and protect its reputation, they need to cut ties immediately.

“It is not the responsibility of Nike to be a parent or rescue a person if they break the law. These athletes have certain qualities that a brand emulates but at the moment they are harming the brand, they have to cut the association quickly and move on.” – Robbie Vorhaus

 Nike did just that and while their reputation was affected, they managed to do crisis management and survive beyond the scandal.

3) Pepsi
Kendall Jenner & failed Pepsi campaign - Negative Publicity

Image credits: sbs.com.au

As mentioned in the H&M case study, anything related to race is a very controversial topic. So, when Pepsi decided to air a commercial that included what seemed to be a “Black Lives Matter” protest and added supermodel Kendall Jenner into the mix, it caused some problems. Many people, including Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, took to social media to criticize the company.

While Pepsi claimed that they were not trying to make light of a sensitive situation, the damage was already done. This campaign had a negative effect on both Pepsi as a company and the influencer involved. The commercial itself was produced by Creator League Studio, which is Pepsi’s in-house production company. After the commercial was pulled, the principal and lead writer of the commercial came out and said:

“This is a good example of what happens when you don’t get the objective input of a classic agency relationship that can say, ‘We need to save you from your worst impulses.”

Pepsi’s crisis management is ultimately what helped them after the crisis hit. They apologized to the public for the ad without placing blame or playing the victim.

However, they could have avoided the crisis altogether if they paid more attention and done their research. They definitely knew what the social climate was like. However, they did not see any warning signs that the commercial might backfire. Pepsi had always used influencer marketing to get their message across, but they could have to build a more positive campaign.

Conclusion

Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as bad PR, and lack of research is the main culprit. However, even the most well-intentioned PR campaigns can fall flat and threaten a brand’s reputation. When this happens, your approach to crisis management can quite literally make or break your company.