The Power of Negative Press

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Popularity is no longer defined as ‘being liked’. Instead, it has become synonymous with getting exposure. The good, the bad, the mistakes and the ugly.

The age old saying of “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” is associated with Phineas T. Barnum, the 19th century American showman and circus owner. There irony is, there is no proof he actually said it.

The earliest version of the expression can be found in print form in US newspaper The Atlanta Constitution. On January 1915 the paper was quoted stating: All publicity is good if it is intelligent. More relevant today than ever.

Negative publicity has historically proven itself fruitfuil for politicians, celebrities, and sports stars. Why?

Relevancy. If you’re not relevant, you simply don’t exist in the public eye.

Oscar Wilde most notably said:

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Despite being a train wreck of a movie, Borat is a perfect example. Throughout the movie, Borat made fun of the country Kazakhstan. In the following months from the movie’s release, reported a 300% increase in requests for information about the country.

Back in 2001, Bridgestone/Firestone ran into a huge public debacle when federal investigators found that faulty tires on Ford trucks and SUV’s were the possible cause of a number of crashes that resulted in 46 deaths.

Soon after, Bridgestone/Firestone rolled out a successful campaign-themed “Making it Right,” which featured its president, chairman and CEO John Lampe, along with racecar drivers Mario and Michael Andretti. Today, the company is the largest manufacturer of tires in the world.

Donald Trump has been the master of utilizing bad press. When his wife Melania Trump’s speech was called out as being plagiarised, he leveraged the news on Twitter saying: “Good news is Melania’s speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics.” He added, “especially if you believe that all press is good press!”

You may have never seen their TV show, but you surely know the Kardashian family.

Good and bad press boil down to the same thing, relevancy. There are a lot of ways to become and stay relevant, including doing something new and innovative, being the loudest, speaking up the most, and spending the most on advertising.

Bad press may have a generally negative connotation, however, for those people and companies savvy enough it provides an opportunity to come out on top. Just as much as everyone loves a hero, they also love the story of the unlikely hero who started from the bottom.

I’m in no way advocating for negative press. I’m merely pointing out that you should never underestimate the power negative press has on your opinions and decisions, along with the opportunities it presents in the face of adversity.

Like everything else in the media, take it with a grain of salt and a healthy dose of background research before you decide for yourself and cast the first/second stone.

Strategic alliances (haptics & magnetics) at Founding team @Nanodots. Writes about VR, tech, startups, and autocross.

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