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What is Publicity?

Most business owners, website owners, politicians, artists, and independent professionals know that publicity can be a good thing, and they know they want it. What is publicity really? Can you buy it? Do you have to earn it? How much can publicity actually help?

Definition of Publicity

Publicity is a niche of marketing that falls within the promotional mix, and is one of the most important aspects of Public Relations. Publicity and promotion are not synonymous. Publicity is a result of a person, business, or organization being newsworthy and generating press or a “buzz.”

How to Get Publicity

In order to achieve good publicity, something needs to be newsworthy. You need to give people a reason to want to talk about you. If you can do that, you can gain publicity through media or press coverage, or you can build a buzz by word of mouth. Often, publicity is a result of a combination of those two things: the media covers a person or company, and people read, see, or hear the news and continue to talk about it, building a bigger buzz.

Is All Publicity Good?

Chances are that at one point or another, you’ve either heard that “all publicity is good publicity,” or that “any press is good press.” Is that true? Not really. All publicity is certainly not good publicity, and negative publicity can destroy companies and careers. However, it is true that seemingly negative publicity can have a positive effect in certain circumstances. Here are a few examples where bad press might serve the best interest of the person or company receiving it:

  • A “Hollywood scandal” that increases box office sales for a new movie.
  • Negative press about a company turning into positive press (for example, when a few bottles of Tylenol were laced with cyanide in the 1980s in the Chicago area, the company used the opportunity to communicate openly with the media and public, and pulled all Tylenol products nation-wide, even though they knew there likely wasn’t any need. They turned a crisis into positive public relations, safer product packaging, and were able to retain the trust of the public.)
  • A book being banned can actually lead to higher book sales.

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