Will The "Any Publicity Is Good Publicity" Myth Please Cruise Away?

21141497_BG1Those of us in PR know how tough it is to get a mantra adopted widely. So how in the world did the line “Any publicity is good publicity” become well known to apparently every man, woman and child in our society? How is that the one thing that everyone claims to “know” about PR? And, by the way, it’s hogwash.

I actually read it in a news analysis column this morning speculating as to why a college basketball coach lashed out at a reporter last night during a post-game press conference. But the better example from today’s headlines is what is happening in Mobile, Alabama as crowds of media and families wait for a Carnival cruise ship to be towed into port after a harrowing ordeal that has captured the public’s attention all week.

Take a look at stories like this or the thousands of stories now online about what has been happening on board the ship. Is there any argument that can be made that this is, somehow, “good publicity” for Carnival? Or the cruise industry? Of course not.

In fact, what type of publicity could possible be worse for Carnival, a company that sells fun for a price, than a very public “vacation from Hell” for thousands of customers? These stories have not only been told via national news, but in many of their hometowns and this will intensify as the passengers reach American soil and cell phone range.

As a rule, the “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” mantra is a nothing more than a myth that is busted virtually every day. An exception could be made, however, for today’s quasi-celebrities whose brushes with the law help them remain famous for being famous. But, even then, it’s hard to argue that a string of bad news could be “good” for those “careers” long-term.

For everyone else, “bad publicity” damages reputations, the invaluable aspect of business and life in our culture. Don’t let a cliche try to tell you otherwise.