Media + PR + Analytics

P.T. Barnum Never Met Harvey Weinstein

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Amy Rohn

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How’s that for a newsjacking, sensational headline?

P.T. Barnum is credited (albeit without substantiation) with coining the phrase “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” I am thinking that Harvey Weinstein might disagree.

What Harvey Weinstein’s case tells us about publicity

Because here’s the thing. Publicity, good or bad, has power. It has the power to build brands, increase sales and change perceptions. It has the power to make careers and the power to destroy them. And never before has it been easier for publicity to be amplified and shared.

Consider publicity and Harvey Weinstein. We know it wasn’t his actions that led to him being labeled a textbook sexual harasser and worse. By many accounts, he had been behaving badly for decades and apparently, everybody in Hollywood knew this. No, it wasn’t the deplorable actions themselves that brought down the entertainment mogul. It was the publicity about that behavior in the New York Times and the New Yorker that led to him being fired from the company he co-founded.

That bad photo on the cover of Time magazine where Weinstein is labeled a predator and a pariah? I am guessing that even P.T. Barnum would consider that bad publicity.

Now, let’s be clear. All the good PR in the world can’t save Harvey Weinstein, nor should it. Because PR is at its best when it comes from a place of authenticity and relatability. This is not an article about “spin” or whitewashing or trying to minimize wrongdoing for the sake of reputation management. This is a piece about the power of publicity and storytelling.

What’s in it for brands?

So, what’s this all have to do with your brand? Everything.

If publicity can make or break a person’s reputation and career, it can do the same for brands. It has powers even advertising can’t match in terms of delivering a message with credibility and in a way that drives action. A bad ad gets lampooned and/or forgotten.

Bad publicity causes customers to defect and consumers to boycott or take their business elsewhere. It’s why Bill Gates is credited with saying, “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on PR.”

Always be proactive

The single best way to leverage the power of publicity for your own brand is to implement a systematic, proactive and consistent public relations effort. This effort must be aligned with and integrated with your other brand marketing activities and authentically reflect what your brand stands for.

By consistently telling your brand’s positive story using earned and owned media you are building a cache of goodwill to tap into when faced with bad news – and that could be anything from a price increase, a bad review, a recall or bad actions of an employee or executive. This also helps ensure you have strong relationships with the key influencers and media in your category which will pay dividends in the fray of a brand crisis.

The other important benefit of an archive of positive coverage is that It helps in a world dominated by search so the positive stories always outnumber the negative.

Public relations is branding

If a solid public relations program is not part of your current brand marketing efforts, we encourage you to rethink your strategies. For the reasons addressed above any many others, it is increasingly becoming a vital part of any brand’s outreach.

And of course, we’d welcome the opportunity to talk to you more about the strategic role of PR in the marketing ecosystem. But you should know when it comes to smart reputation management, we don’t buy into the P.T. Barnum theory of publicity.



Amy Rohn

"A messy desk is the sign of a brilliant mind."

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