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, even in the face of negative messages.

Ultimately, PR is all about shaping an image. It exists mainly 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.

Criteria for good PR

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

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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

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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

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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.

4) Coinbase’s mysterious QR code

The Best PR Campaigns of 2022 Coinbase

While featuring an ad with nothing but a floating QR code during the Super Bowl would seem like a risky move to many of us, this is exactly what Coinbase did in February 2022. This QR code had the effect of piquing curiosity among Super Bowl viewers, who rushed to scan it and were pleasantly surprised when they were directed to the Coinbase website and then received $15 worth of Bitcoin. The company’s website received over 20 million hits (within minutes of airing the ad) and eventually crashed due to the volume of traffic.

Most PR experts would caution against creating a vague ad that leaves viewers guessing, but this unconventional ad from Coinbase proves that creating a sense of mystery could sometimes be exactly what you need to pique curiosity. What began as a seemingly simple and silly concept captured attention worldwide and helped Coinbase earn a spot among the top PR campaigns of 2022.

5) CPB London’s “Imagine” campaign

CPB London Imagine Campaign

To celebrate International Women’s Day in 2022, the now-famous creative agency CPB London built a campaign to challenge gender biases. They started by polling children with questions about specific careers. In this study, they found that 45% of children believe nurses are always women, while doctors are more likely to be men. Additionally, 60% of the children surveyed thought plumbers or electricians are always men, and 46% believed men are better at engineering.

CPB London used the responses in this survey to create OOH ads that challenged gender biases in the workplace. These ads were complemented by a coloring book that was sold to parents to help them initiate healthy conversations with their children about gender biases. CPB London donated the money raised from the sale of this coloring book to “Beyond Equality” and “Young Woman’s Trust.”

This campaign was incredibly successful 4.7M+ impressions and 250K+ engagement on social media. Why? CPB London launched this campaign at the perfect time. International Women’s Day is usually a time when people are already having conversations about equality and gender biases. As a result, the campaign sparked meaningful conversations about gender biases, gender inequality and the ever-infamous wage gap.

For a more comprehensive list of PR done right, check out these top PR campaigns from 2020 to 2023.

What is bad PR

Now that you understand what good PR is, bad PR should be pretty self-explanatory. This is any PR that damages a brand’s reputation. Sometimes this is due to circumstances outside the brand’s control. However, at other times, this negative PR boils down to something the brand itself has done. 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 that 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. As with the boy who 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 read 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 of 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: The Coolest Monkey in the Jungle

H&M Coolest Monkey in the Jungle

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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: The Bullet

Nike's Oscar Pistorius campaign

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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 the 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) The Pepsi x Kendall Jenner Collaboration

Kendall Jenner & failed Pepsi campaign - Negative Publicity

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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 built a more positive campaign.

4) Balenciaga’s Christmas campaign

Balenciaga Christmas Campaign Controversy

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In November 2022, Balenciaga came under fire for a Christmas campaign that displayed undertones of child abuse. Their campaign featured children holding bags that were shaped like plush teddy bears – the conventional symbol for child abuse in the media. To make matters even worse, the teddy bears were in what appeared to be S&M harnesses. Balenziaga’s response to the situation was a perfect example of what not to do in the midst of a crisis: blame others. The hue and cry from the media and consumers alike resulted in a social media blame game, with the ad creatives and the brand blaming each other.

As the brand’s statement on Instagram said:

“We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our spring 23 campaign photoshoot. We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being.”

In response, the creatives who were part of the shoot explained that they are hired to bring the brand’s concepts to life, not to comment or offer advice.

Needless to say, Balenciaga pulled the ad as soon as the public reacted.

6) Center Parcs UK threatens to kick guests out

Center Parcs Threatens to Kick Guests Out

When Queen Elizabeth’s funeral was announced in September 2022, Center Parcs – a company that provides holiday accommodation across the UK – ruffled more than a few feathers by announcing the closure of all their facilities. Their social media announcement recommended that guests who were due to arrive on 19 September should postpone their trips. Additionally, guests who had already checked in were advised to leave before the one-day closure on 19 September. To make up for their troubles, Center Parts offered what guests saw as a measly compensation – a 30% refund on their stay.

As one guest, by the handle of @bonzo_g stated:

“We are not travelling directly to you, so this has left us stranded halfway up the country without accommodation for a night. 30% offered is nowhere near close enough to covering the extra costs.”

When angry guests took to social media to share their feelings on this response, Center Parcs revised their stance, stating that guests were welcome to use the accommodation but facilities would be closed nonetheless.

7) Elon Musk fires Twitter staff via email

Elon Musk Fires Twitter Employees

We’ve all heard about this one. Several times in fact, since Elon Musk has gone on several Twitter firing sprees since his $44 billion purchase of the social media platform in 2022. The fact that he’s done this via email, and using a meme no less doesn’t help things, leaving people appalled.

Initially, Musk claimed it was to streamline operations and build a better Twitter. At some point, though, he started blatantly firing anyone who he considered a dissenter. More specifically, anyone who has criticised or questioned him on Twitter or Slack has found their head on the chopping block.

When challenged over his decision to fire employees who disagree with him, Elon Musk tweeted a sarcastic response:

“I would like to apologize for firing these geniuses. Their immense talent will no doubt be of great use elsewhere.”

It’s all been downhill from there, with Elon reinstating previously banned accounts, getting rid of censorship, and introducing paid verification. In fact, a report from the Guardian predicts that the platform will lose 32 million users by the end of 2024, citing technical issues and hate speech as the reason behind this mass exodus. In early 2023, the team at HubSpot surveyed the brands that advertise on Twitter regularly. 34% of these advertisers have stated that they are considering leaving because of the lack of security and lack of censorship against hate speech.

8) FIFA’s World Cup 2022 mess

FIFA World Cup 2022 Controversy

FIFA attracted criticism from all over the world from the moment they announced the venue of their 2022 World Cup. Qatar wasn’t a popular venue among fans because the country doesn’t support LGBTQIA+ rights and mistreats migrant workers. The public outcry against FIFA was only compounded by FIFA’s decision to ban the OneLove armband, all while the organization was sharing seemingly inclusive social media posts.

To make matters worse, FIFA then went on to forcibly remove fans who were wearing a Mahsa Amini t-shirt from the stadium. In a final blow, FIFA banned alcohol from the stadium, with preferential access reserved for fans willing to pay more for a VIP box. Needless to say, Budweiser, the official beer sponsor of the World Cup, wasn’t amused. The company announced plans to give their unsold beer to the winning team.

In a response to the media, FIFA President Gianni Infantino held a press conference that only made matters worse. In his speech, he referred to Western critics as hypocrites.

“For what we Europeans have been doing around the world in the last 3,000 years we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people.”

To make things even worse, Infantino played the victim card:

“Today, I feel Qatari. Today, I feel Arabic. Today, I feel African. Today, I feel gay. Today, I feel disabled. Today, I feel (like) a migrant worker. Of course, I am not Qatari, I am not Arab, I am not African. But I feel like it because I know what it feels like to be discriminated, to be bullied as a foreigner in a foreign country. As a child, I was bullied because I had red hair and freckles. Plus, I was Italian, so you can imagine. What do you do then? You try to engage, make friends. Don’t start accusing, fighting, insulting, you start engaging. And this is what we should be doing.”

Rather than take responsibility for any of the controversial decisions FIFA had made, Infantino played the blame game, followed promptly after by the victim card. It’s no surprise that he attracted criticism and ridicule for his press conference response on social media.


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.