Media attention… brand builder or destroyer?

This is something that is debated by most people, and opinions often vary based on what side of the industry you are on, and where the person stands to benefit the most.  It’s time to actually explore the statement that all media attention is positive…is that really possible?

One thing is for sure; when you, your business or brand are in the media, everyone knows who you are.  Does that leave you with positive or negative awareness?

Media exposure holds a certain level of prestige. If you are talked about in the media, it usually means you have done something to be talked about, or you are someone to be talked about.  Only the absolute best, most entertaining, and attention grabbing people, places or events get talked about.  However, the focus of that attention is usually on the negative, thus where the phrase “if it bleeds, it leads” comes into play.  Destruction, whether it be natural or man made, is what often gets the lead story of the night, the front of the paper or the top news alert.

That video or photo you sent… yes it can destroy you!
Recently a video surfaced on Facebook of an NFL Assistant Coach, one of the highest paid assistant coaches in the league according to ESPN, snorting white powder off a desk with a $20 bill, quickly catching the attention of national media.  As the clocks turned to Monday morning, Coach Foerster had resigned.  It was a game changing moment; one video gone viral by today’s standards took someone from earning $2.5 – $3 million annually, to jobless and in rehab.  The End? No… nothing just stops there. His impact is now pushed upon the football team as they are left with everyone questioning, “Did anyone know?”, “Were others also doing the same?”, “Was anyone covering up for him?”.  His reputation as one of the most highly respected line coaches in the NFL is ruined… at least for now.

A week later, the narrative hasn’t changed, but is gone.  The world keeps spinning and everyone has moved on.  After a stint in rehab, a public apology, and ongoing “treatment”, a comeback could be mounted.   Did this have a real impact on the NFL team?  No, not really. They are back to winning games, and this massive scandal isn’t being discussed any longer.

Others weren’t so lucky. A political career completely ended over some scandalous photos. However, with a name like Anthony Weiner, one might have suspected that this type of scandal was inevitable.  His shot at politics, his wife’s political career, and his marriage all suffered fallout that he has still yet to recover from.

Your past actions can destroy your present
Harvey Weinstein, on the other hand, was first accused by Rose McGowan of sexual harassment, and for the first 12 hours, there was silence.  No one supporting, and no one adding accusations to back her up.  Then something happened; celebrity after celebrity started coming forward with their own stories of their own horrific experience with Weinstein.  So far, the earliest known incident was back in 1984, concluding this behavior has been taking place for over 30 years. He had probably thought he’d gotten away with it until the media completely unraveled his empire that he had spent so much time building.  This is leading to France revoking awards, The Academy kicking him out, his business folding, and an investigation being launched into his campaign donations over the years.

These very real, very current examples show just how that attention by the media and the press can completely destroy a career or a business overnight.

A good strategy can mount a comeback
When you ask any American about the BP oil spill, everyone is familiar with that event, perhaps even being brought back to light recently with the movie Deepwater Horizon starring Mark Wahlberg. Shortcuts were taken to increase profits and unfortunately in the process, 11 lives were lost and 4.9 billion barrels of oil spewed into the ocean. Company shares fell from $60 to $27 in less than a month, attributing to a loss of $100 billion in shareholder value in 2010.  To date, this is still discussed as one of the biggest PR nightmares a company could ever encounter.

Immediately after the spill, BP had their CEO Tony Hayward launch the “I’m Sorry” campaign, with interviews, newspaper ads, TV commercials, and a very well planned clean up and preventative strategy all at the company’s cost.  The British based company now has one of the worst safety records in the industry and is responsible for some of the most notable incidents when it comes to the oil industry.  As a result, this is most likely why they had a clear-cut strategy on what to do.  BP also paid out $18.7 million to be distributed among the Gulf Coast Beaches.

Where does British Petroleum find itself today?  It’s the number 6 oil and gas company in the world, just behind Exxon but still ahead of Royal Dutch Shell, and Chevron among others.  This media nightmare cost billions, but was it a company ruiner?  Not really!

From unknown to a household name, thanks to the media!
The media can also be responsible for putting people on the map and has helped launch start-ups to the level they are today.

Uber is a household name almost anywhere in the world. To everyone who isn’t a taxi cab driver, you most likely have great things to say about them.  However, they are one of the companies that faces the most legal issues when battling with expansion.  What does Uber do to keep their edge and maintain a positive image?  They are constantly coming up with “media stunts” to control the narrative.

Uber launch – When first launching in Palo Alto, Uber pitted Facebook and Google against each other in a competition to see which company would have the most rides. The winner was Facebook which wasn’t important; the important fact was the buzz this built.

UberPalooza – In 2012 Uber offered party busses to book for $25 via the app which would bring people to the festival. The busses held up to 11 people and had drinks, food and DJ’s on board…again creating buzz.

Uber Ice Cream – Uber identified the hottest day of the year and took advantage of it. They delivered ice cream door to door to win over it’s customers, have good news in the media, and completely take over everyone’s social media feeds for the day.

With continuing ideas to stand out, winning the hearts of the customers, and keeping the positive outweighing the negative, Uber has used promotional stunts for media attention to keep the story going in their favor.

Even a movie can make a major box office hit from media attention
In 1999 The Blair Witch Project hit the box office in the US. This horror film ended up raking in $248.6 million dollars.  How is that even possible?  This independent film only had a budget of $60,000 so it definitely took some creativity. At the Sundance Film Festival where it first launched in 1999, the first “stunt” took place with all of the cast members being listed as “missing” or “deceased”, creating a lot of attention and wonder.  After the festival, the film’s distribution rights were purchased for $1.1 million dollars.  When premiering in the box office, the film drew a lot of pre-hype by circulating takes to college as “real video diary footage”. This is thought to be one of the earliest forms of viral content and it worked getting a lot of attention, creating buzz, and generating millions in return.

So is media good or bad?
Media exposure can certainly tear you down, but you and your company can also completely recover if you have the right strategy and people on your team.  Effective media can also put your business on the map and take something small to the next level.

Tips for exposing your brand to the media…

  1. Join the conversation instead of starting a new one… what’s already being talked about, discussed, and featured and how can you get involved?
  2. Do it different. Brands and businesses that have the best stories came up with something different than everyone else to cut through the noise
  3. It can be a simple concept that doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to execute. Often the best strategies are the simplest ones.
  4. Own it! When things go wrong, don’t run and hide. Figure out how to own it and fix it to minimize the damage as much as possible.
  5. Nothing is going to last forever, good or bad, so always be thinking of the next idea.
  6. Don’t do things you wouldn’t want featured on the news. A lot of negative PR is created when people do things they shouldn’t, because they don’t think they will get caught.  You will someday, so just don’t do it.
  7. Get help. Hire a professional to help. If you were a PR genius, then you would already have mastered getting media attention!