The origins of “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” are foggy. P.T. Barnum, the 19th century circus owner who was known for shamelessly promoting at every opportunity, is oftentimes granted authorship. However, more verifiable sources quote The Atlanta Constitution, January 1915, with the original statement as “All publicity is good if it is intelligent”. While marketers, in general, love any media coverage, attention needs to focus on what message is being sent. All publicity is NOT necessarily good; having your name is the press is not automatically a joyous event.
For example, a friend of mine owns a small franchise within a large fitness organization that is fighting a stereotype of being dated and stuck in the ‘80s. The program is definitely current, and has moved out of the ‘80, however, a strong public perception of leg warmers and leotards still exists. My friend was expressing her excitement of seeing retro footage of this fitness program on a popular local talk show and talking about “what great coverage we got”. While I did not want to burst her bubble, this free press was doing more harm by reinforcing the old image that the organization has been trying to break for many years. This free press was negating and eroding current marketing!
So what is a small business marketer to do? In this case, the situation gives you, the marketer, an opportunity to turn this into intelligent marketing by contacting the local station and approaching the host with the idea of a follow-up “that was then, this is now”. The intelligent marketer will be prepared to pitch this angle by acknowledging the previous piece, and then having a well-thought-out, short monologue highlighting the positive changes, company growth, significant milestones, or other noteworthy facts, then asking about a follow up interview or news segment. (We’ll explore how to turn rejection into acceptance in future blogs, but for now, let’s assume the talk show host agrees to the follow up.) Researching the company and having sound bytes will also prepare you for interview questions as well as sharing key information that may not be asked. For instance, the talk show host may ask my friend about the type of music used in her fitness class. While answering the question is adequate, she can better capitalize on her marketing time by saying “We workout to XYZ music. And for those times when you can’t get to class we also have DVDs. By the way, what do you think of my outfit? We also sell a complete line of moisture wicking fitness apparel and high quality equipment to suit all fitness level.”
This little addition is short, informative, and has conveyed important information that makes the most of this precious interview. Being familiar and well versed with tiny tidbits like this can significantly enhance your marketing and steer the message the way YOU want it to go. Success comes from being fluently familiar with your knowledge tidbits as well as practicing your delivery. While we can’t always stop bad publicity, savvy marketers recognize that bad publicity does exist. In the unfortunate instance it does occur, being proactive and prepared can minimize the negativity and, hopefully add a positive spin for your company.