Is There No Such Thing as Bad Publicity? The Definitive Answer

According to the old adage, any publicity is good publicity. As long as people hear your name, it doesn't matter whether they're thrilled or horrified with what you've been up to. But is that really true? We look at a few famous examples of the baddest of bad publicity, and see whether or not the people at the center of the controversy were able to recover.

Speaking of "bad," let's start with:


1. Michael Jackson.

From the early '80s until his first accusation of child sexual abuse in 1994, the King of Pop could do no wrong. He hung out primarily with kids, and acted like one himself, building an amusement park at his home, Neverland Ranch. He tried to buy the elephant man's bones, kept a pet chimp, and allegedly had multiple plastic surgeries that left him looking more alien than human. (He denied it, but it's hard to believe that a simple deviated septum repair would lead to this.)

Still, the public loved him until the allegations of abuse cropped up. Then his reputation went into a decade-long tailspin, marked by strange occurrences like his infamous baby dangling incident of 2002. A few years of lying relatively low and an acquittal on additional child abuse charges in 2005 set the stage for a comeback tour in 2009, which was unfortunately cut short by the singer's untimely death.

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By that time, however, public opinion seemed to have shifted. After his passing, most media outlets spoke more about his music than his controversy.


2. George W. Bush

Even the most ardent supporter of President Bush has to acknowledge that by the time he left office in 2009, his reputation was tarnished by a bad economy, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and the War on Terror.

His post-presidential career has been quieter. He released a well-received memoir in 2010. "Decision Points" was a best seller, breaking 2 million copies and the record previously held by President Clinton's memoir, "My Life." Afterward, he retired to his new home in Dallas and took up painting.

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3. O.J. Simpson

What can we say about O.J. Simpson that hasn't been said by just about every pundit on TV from 1994 onward? (Not to mention, in an particularly egregious example of bad taste, by Simpson himself in a mock-memoir called "If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer.")

Simpson is now in jail, although not for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. Thirteen years to the day after being acquitted of the double murders, Simpson went to prison for a robbery in Las Vegas. He was sentenced to 33 years, with a possibility of parole in nine years.

The gravity of his legal history and his continuous problems means that Simpson never really dropped out of the public eye. His reputation might be a rare example of one that cannot be redeemed.

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The Bottom Line

There issuch a thing as bad publicity, but most negative attention can be managed by someone who knows how. If you or your company are struggling with a bad reputation, we can help you turn it around. Yesterday's bad news might become tomorrow's free press. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

Images: smemon/Flickr, Wikipedia, walkadog/Flickr

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