Is Bad Publicity Really Better Than None?

Self marketing: Does the end justifies the means?
Self marketing and publicity: Bad Publicity

Bad publicity


How about your self-marketing? Is bad publicity better than none? Some even believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity. What do you think? Does the end justify the means?


It is generally much more shameful to lose a good reputation than never to have acquired it.

When is bad publicity better than none?



Publicity is a powerful tool for any business – big or small – and if mastered correctly – it can support a brand. Some even believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Hey, so what? What is the thought behind the proverb? Oscar Wilde expressed it that way: The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Is it true or only a cliché? There is at least one reason to say yes: “Yes! If you like risks!”






In short, the mind tends us to recall events that occur frequently and recently. That’s the reason why advertisers spend millions of Euros bombarding us with slogans. Experiments have shown it is a good investment. We are more likely to buy a particular product if we can recall it easily. Likewise, one reason why popular music charts feature all-time favorites is because they contain an excessive amount of modern songs and people remember them more easily.




Familiar faces


Therefore, bad publicity is better than none? A client of mine once said; “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.”

One argument for this theory is that we may believe people and their ideas whom we see more frequently than those we seldom see. The out of sight, out of mind concept works here. But be careful to integrate that in your self-marketing strategy without considering your branch and target group.




Intelligent or stupid publicity?


There are different kinds of bad publicity. Some are back-breaking for your reputation. It seems to be easier for someone who seeks a notoriety and somewhat scandalous reputation. But nowadays it becomes even harder for them to be seen when so many people are willing to be seen as idiots – only to get a few seconds of fame.

So it depends on our target group, what is allowed and what isn’t. And some groups have a better memory and prefer good publicity.

Switch on the TV and you can see how many people want to be famous, no matter what and how. Do you want to see yourself that way? Do you really think the end justifies the means?




Established or unknown, actor or politician,…


The better the brand (or company, or expert, or politician or…) is known the more it can be harmed by bad publicity. In the entertainment industry you’re dead – or your career at the end when people stop talking about you. In such a case a scandal, or rumor of a scandal still keeps your name in the newspaper. When the people talk about you, then you’ll be invited to parties and screenings. Because of the notoriety, the press will see follow you around and people will flock to see you out of curiosity. Do I to remind you all the actors who got more attention when they started to self-destruct.




Good or bad?


A crucial factor is how familiar a brand or product or another entity was before the negative publicity. It seems that the risks are higher for established brands and the chances are higher for the unknown. Big brands can be harmed by bad news. One reason is that, for lesser-known brands, negative perceptions fade more quickly in consumers’ minds than their general awareness of the product. With established brands, on the other hand, the whiff of bad publicity lingers longer. The unknown offer typically hasn’t so much to lose. There is a higher probability that nearly all publicity is good publicity – if no one has ever heard of you.




What do you think?


Some experts say, as long as people are talking about you, it’s always a good thing. There is no such thing as bad publicity… or is there? Can negative publicity actually have a positive effect? And if so, when and how?



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May you live all the days of your life. Jonathan Swift

This article is a short excerpt of the more comprehensive course materials my clients receive in group or individual training or coaching.

First published: June 21, 2008
Author: Karsten Noack
Revision: April 23, 2019
Translation: April 23, 2019
German version: