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How to deal with bad PR March 5, 2011

Posted by jeremyliew in PR.

The Economist has published a couple of interesting articles about how to deal with bad PR recently.

The first suggests that it is better to ignore bad PR than to fight it:

…rebuttals are unwise, argue Derek Rucker and David Dubois, of the Kellogg School of Management, and Zakary Tormala, of Stanford business school, three psychologists. By restating the rumours, Coke helps to propagate them. Its web page is a magnet for search engines. And people who read rebuttals tend to forget the denial and remember only the rumour, says Mr Rucker.

As information is passed around, important qualifiers are lost. A rumour may start as “I’m not sure if this is true, but I heard that…” Then it evolves into: “I heard that…” Finally it becomes: “Did you know that…?” Even when no one intends to spread falsehoods, they spread.

The second suggest that for startups and other unknowns, bad PR is better than no PR:

…if your starting point is obscurity, even bad publicity may be helpful, argues Alan Sorensen, an economics professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. He looked at the effect of book reviews in the New York Times. In a study published inMarketing Science*, he found that well-known authors who earned glowing reviews for a new book could expect to sell 42% more copies, whereas a negative review caused sales to drop by 15%. For unknown authors, however, it did not matter whether a book was panned or lauded. Simply being reviewed in the Times bumped up sales by a third.

Mr Sorensen extrapolated his findings to other businesses. For small brands fighting for recognition in crowded markets, almost any publicity is beneficial, he reckons. One reason is that, for lesser-known brands, negative perceptions fade more quickly in consumers’ minds than their general awareness of the product.

If you’ve had bad PR around your startup, let me know what you think.


1. philp - March 6, 2011

Guess one could do what you did with my comment of 3. Jonathan – March 4, 2011 and remove it.

2. Steve - March 7, 2011

The company I work for was recently slammed in TechCrunch for “scam”that was not only false but also exaggerated based on edge case blogger experienced during a spam attack from Ukraine. After some initial attempts at explanation and clarification, it became clear the post was not going to be adjusted in our favor so we just stopped trying to counter, even when we were actually able to prove otherwise. Though pride and principal screamed “fight this BS and clear the air” the rational side agreed with views expressed here, ie don’t draw any more attention to it.

Within 24 hours it was literally “yesterday’s news” so think that was the best approach. However, it still lives on the web and will potentially haunt my company until new PR can bury it and make it obsolete.

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