There is an old adage that all publicity is good publicity and I vehemently disagree. Visibility at all costs is not only ineffective but can be dangerous to your brand.
The discipline of Public Relations (PR) seeks to communicate, and influence perception. It is not carried out in a silo, with haphazard strategies but harmonized with marketing, branding, sales and every other part of your business. The symphony of your efforts are ultimately judged by customers, for if they’re not paying to hear the music you have no reason to play. Visibility in and of itself is not the goal, but being visible, relevant and respected by the right people.
These days, I can understand why many would confuse visibility with sustainability. Losing it seems to be an effective media relations strategy. Become a train wreck and people show up to watch by the millions. Get arrested, drive drunk, flub the lyrics to the national anthem or just plain lose your grip on reality and you become a media star. In spite of the seemingly effortless publicity generated, I do not recommend ‘crazy’ as a PR strategy. However, if crazy is your brand and you want to be known as an unhinged bag of nuts who is the punchline of loser jokes, go for it. For everyone else there is a better way.
Outside of the realm of comedians and celebrities, your PR efforts should help you gain respect. You want to gain attention for what you know and offer; for being a leader in your space rather than an unfortunate break with reality. Visibility at all costs is not the best path to creating longevity in your market. Trust is an essential component of the sales cycle, but also of your staying power. People need to trust your brand and brand promise to purchase from you. Bad behavior may grab headlines but it does not translate into sustainable relationships with your customers. Further, eventually someone else will trump your bad behavior and you will become old news.
A far better approach is to build your brand with purpose. Be strategic and purposeful about who you are and how you present yourself to the market. Brand perception is in the eyes of your consumer but you can influence that perception for good or bad by what you do and say. Be visible for the value and solutions you offer to your market, and leave the meltdowns to those who are pros at entertaining.
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Greg Herman says
Karen your this post provides sound advice for building a brand. Equally important is that once your brand in built, you are always in the public eye…even when you think you aren’t. The banking and oil industries have received quite a bit of visibility for all the wrong reasons. I can’t imagine that getting caught using government bailout money to furnish lavish vacations for CEOs is the kind of visibility that build and endearing brand. Nor is ignoring warning signs of the safety issues on an offshore oil rig in the gulf of Mexico (BP). Tiger Woods lost a billion dollars (between divorce settlements, legal fees, lost endorsement opportunities) for being careless with his brand. Any political ambitions that Jonathan Edwards are all but gone because of his recklessness. The point is be as vigilant in protecting your brand as you are about building it.
Alex Aguilar says
Outside a narrow subsection of the entertainment industry, controversy and public displays of idiocy are rarely considered good PR. As much as pundits decry today’s moral standards, the general public are still highly perceptive to family-friendly, clean-cut and wholesome advertising.
Andrew Heaton says
It’s been a long time since I posted here.
I agree. Effective branding is about identifying the benefits your product or service provides to your client and then hammering home messages in which these benefits are demonstrated. Whilst it is fine to be creative in your marketing, publicity which is not congruent with messages you are trying to put across are at best distracting, may serve to cloud your real message, and at worst, may be offensive or off-putting.
Hi Fred, “short term bump…long term decline” is right on the money. Very well said and I completely agree.
Fred H Schlegel says
“These days, I can understand why many would confuse visibility with sustainability. Losing it seems to be an effective media relations strategy.”
Well said. Often it seems that strange publicity can create a short term bump that is easy to measure – while putting in place a long term decline that is tough to turn around.
Hey Conor! I’m glad you like the mantra 🙂 It is a sentiment that is personal to me as I try to follow my purpose and match my intentions to my calling. It is not the fast road to popularity or overnight riches but it is definitely fulfilling.
Conor Ebbs says
A very timely reminder.
“Build your brand with purpose”. That is a mantra worth repeating, be it a personal brand or a business.
Hi Brad, you are so right that the strategy may work in rare instances but is not one that I would recommend even for celebrities. People still have to like you to buy tickets to your movies or buy your songs. Sometimes the behavior can go too far, Mel Gibson and Lindsey Lohan are two very sad examples.
brad shorr says
Hi Karen, We’ve kicked this issue around on Facebook already, and your well written post expands on very important ideas. There are certain brands that can afford to be controversial or even offensive – rap musicians, for instance. These instances are exceedingly rare. For the most part firms must have their values and communication aligned, and in a positive way.