It was apparently the 19th century American showman and circus owner Phineas T Barnum who coined the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”. A lot has changed since this statement was made, but the essence of it still rings true, even with the invention of the internet and social media sites such as twitter.

An incredible marketing tool, twitter has altered the face of PR. Celebrities have embraced the social network with all the self-endorsing spirit they can muster. Some have done it well, some haven’t, but no one has really lost out. A prime example here is Susan Boyle. Her publicists came under fire as the hashtag for her album launch party began trending for all the wrong reasons.

They were apparently left ‘red faced’ after twitter users discovered that the hashtag, #susanalbumparty, could be read more than one way. However, the hashtag was soon trending all over the world and has hit headlines just about everywhere. With a new album to promote, Boyle has been the topic on everyone’s lips – and isn’t that all that matters? The team behind Susan Boyle say it was a genuine error, but its more likely that this was a stroke of PR genius.

Susan may have been getting her name heard all over the world, but not everyone has been so lucky with Twitter. Both McDonalds and Waitrose got burnt when asking for feedback from their customers over the site. McDonalds were flooded with horror stories and negative comments, while Waitrose took a large amount of flack as people began to mock the supermarket chain. While the fast food chain is still receiving tales of woe from customers months later, Waitrose rose triumphantly from the flames of their twitter crash, having had their brand identity of a quality, upmarket supermarket reinforced by twitter jokers.

Author James Frey became the talk of America when Oprah Winfrey picked apart his ‘memoir’ on her show. Large parts of the book were reportedly fabricated, and Oprah felt she needed to protect her viewers from the ‘fraudulent’ claims. The publishers of the book decided to offer full refunds to anyone who had purchased the book and felt they had been deceived by Frey.

However, in March 2009 less than 2,000 people had claimed refunds, while the book has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. The majority of these sales occurred around the time the controversy hit….. It would appear that for Mr Frey, becoming America’s number one enemy for a couple of weeks was the best thing that could have happened to him.

Greetings card company Scribbler felt the backlash of the Daily Mail last Christmas, as the national paper attacked them for selling ‘obscene’ christmas cards instead of traditional ones. While a percentage of people will take the side of the Mail on this issue, there will also be an awful lot of people who read the critcism, only to think ‘I want one of those cards’, as clearly demonstrated in the comment section beneath the article.

So not only has the paper just made potential customers aware of a product they might not have known about, they’ve done it on a national scale too. With a quirky brand such as Scribbler, the best thing to do with bad publicity is embrace it – promote the reviews and watch as the brand awareness overtakes and outweighs any bad press.

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