Secret #3: Not All PR is Good PR.

Many people have claimed that “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” If you’re a founder of a company, and you’re looking for PR, I’m here to tell you that that is simply not true. Bad publicity can crater your business. Just look at Elizabeth Holmes over at Theranos, and you’ll see that bad press can and will destroy your company.

But let’s dig a little deeper and talk about how bad press can impact you and your company. It’s always good to simply avoid bad press because you don’t want people to not do business with you because of what they read or heard. You may not always be able to avoid bad PR but there are some pitfalls you can easily veer away from.

Stay Away From Bad News and Sources

Don’t try to glom onto someone else’s negative PR even if you want to help as a source for a reporter. Your competitor may have a negative story coming out, and a reporter you know may call you to get a quote. It’s easy to want to do every single media interview, especially when it’s for a high profile media outlet but always ask clear questions to see what the full opportunity entails before agreeing to be quoted or to do an interview. Some media outlets do have an agenda (duh) and if you end up quoted in an article in a negative light, it could impact your reputation and business.

Always Get the Story Straight

Recently one of our mobile application clients was asked to be quoted in an article about how hard it is to fundraise in the current economic climate. Because the interview was with a major media outlet, they immediately agreed to do the interview. They should have checked with us first. The article came out and their quote was manipulated to look like they were complaining about their fundraising experience, and that they were struggling to raise funds. The short quote and the negative association hurt their fundraising possibilities. Remember, investors, competitors and customers will Google you.

Spinning Bad News Into Good PR

Most people tend to sugarcoat bad news and spin it into good news. Elizabeth Holmes over at Theranos tried to do just that on The Today Show. After that interview, things got even worst with the Wall Street Journal reporting that Theranos will void 2 years of blood tests, and the DOJ wants to ban Elizabeth Homes for 2 years from running a lab. Not to mention that the SEC has an open investigations into fraud. What a mess.

Now, let’s compare that PR nightmare with another one that involves a high profile figure. Meet Martha Stewart.

What’s different about Martha Stewart is that she took responsibility for her actions (she got caught for doing insider trading), owned up to it and got punished for it. Even during her 5-month prison sentence, a Time magazine piece even quipped that Martha Stewart’s Prison Time Actually Helped Her Business. You go M. Diddy.

That being said, never ever commit crimes! First rule of achieving good PR for your company.

Ways to Stay on the Good Side of PR

It’s best to always be an ally to the press. It just makes your life a helluva lot easier. Here are a few things to consider to stay on the “good side of the press”:

  • Don’t Rant on Social Media: I know it’s tempting to right a wrong by leaving a zinger of a comment to put some troll in place. Believe me when I tell you, it’s not worth it. If you have any kind of brand equity, it will evaporate fast if you pick fights with trolls on the innerwebs.
  • Always Take the High Road with Customers: Customers talk, and they talk a lot when they feel they have been wronged or slighted. In the end, a bunch of bad customer service PR will spiral out of control when you least expect it. Unless you’re like Pizzeria Delfina, which turned all their bad Yelp reviews into T-Shirts and positive press — PR operator, master level.
  • Be Ethical In Your Business Practices: This goes without saying but I’m putting this in here because so many people apparently go without saying. If you are a douchebag, bad PR will find you. Remember that grade-A douchebag who jacked up drug prices. It’s almost like he wanted the government to arrest him.
  • If it’s Too Good to Be True …: Sometimes things get tough and some founders might want to try some creative things to save their business. It’s a noble cause but if you are thinking of pulling a John Delorean, see the ‘ethical bullet’ above. Always remember that the cover-up is worse than the event itself unless you get caught up in a $24M cocaine deal — that’s just bad all around.
  • Be Genuinely Helpful and Thoughtful: It’s important that media people find you and your company helpful and thoughtful because this translates into goodwill. Goodwill can translate into excellent PR when those media people call you for a trustworthy source.

If the above is too much to remember, then I’ll leave you with what one of my old bosses used to say to me about PR. It’s an oldie but a goodie.

If you don’t want your grandmother reading about it in the paper, then don’t do it. Sage words to live by.

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This post is part of a 7 part series titled 7 PR Secrets Every Founder Should Know But Are Not Told. If you stumbled upon this searching the innerwebs, please join us for the full series. I would really appreciate it.