A PR lesson from Pirates of the Caribbean


Norrington: You are without doubt the worst pirate I've ever heard of. Jack Sparrow: But you have heard of me.

This quote from Pirates of the Caribbean got me thinking about the phrases "all publicity is good publicity" or "there's no such thing as bad publicity." We've seen and heard these phrases everywhere, especially if you are in PR.

The thing is... I don't necessarily agree with this. Is it a good thing that people know who you are? It honestly depends. A few well-known examples:

1. Bill Clinton - While, in my opinion, he was a pretty good President if you look at all his accomplishments with cutting $600 billion from our outstanding deficit, with creating jobs, with banning weapons and more, he will always be remembered for that one thing, not his accomplishments.

Not the best thing to be remembered for, at all. Even though everyone already knew our President, is it a good thing to have people across the world talking about you? Is that good publicity? I don't think Bill Clinton likes to be remembered for his adultery over his presidency.

To this day, if you Google "Bill Clinton" this is what comes up:

2. Dominos viral crisis - When two Dominos employees who worked at the Conover, N.C.  restaurant decided to post a video on YouTube of them "preparing sandwiches for delivery while putting cheese up his nose, nasal mucus on the sandwiches, and violating other health-code standards while a fellow employee provided narration" [quote via NY Times article].

Absolutely disgusting. Within two days, the video had over 1 million views. What did this crisis cost Dominos? Over $50 million in sales over the next few months when this restaurant shut down and when they lost thousands of loyal customers. HCD Research found 65% of respondents who would previously visit or order Domino’s Pizza were less likely to do so after viewing the offending video.

My favorite part of the NY Times article:

The Domino’s experience “is a nightmare,” said Paul Gallagher, managing director and a head of the United States crisis practice at the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller. “It’s the toughest situation for a company to face in terms of a digital crisis.”

Which brings me to:

3. Burson- Marsteller and Facebook crisis.

Some people still don't think this was a crisis, but when half of the online community is talking about how terrible it was of both of these companies to participate in this kind of unethical behavior, I think you have a serious problem.

Again, everyone knows Facebook and people really looked up to Burson-Marsteller as a PR firm. All publicity is not good publicity. Did Facebook see an effect from this smear campaign? Well, not really: Facebook Smear Campaign Has No Lasting Effect on Facebook or Google [STATS] via Mashable, but this doesn't change people's already growing suspicion of Facebook and its ethical practices.

So, is any publicity good publicity?

I really don't think so. Like I said above, it does get your name out there, but not in a good way and not in a positive lasting way. We study "crisis communication" for a reason. A good crisis can really destroy a company and leave a bad taste in your mouth [see BP].


Related Posts:

Any Publicity is Good Publicity in Social Media, Right? via Paul Dunay

Any publicity is not good publicity, but it doesn't have to be bad via Fever Bee