The statement, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me, as long as they spell my name right,” has been attributed to Mae West, P.T. Barnum, Will Rogers, W.C. Fields, Oscar Wilde, and even Mark Twain. (If you ever need to attribute a pithy quote to someone, Mark Twain will do.) Although no one seems to know who first uttered the words, it’s quite possible that they all took turns saying it at some point or another. After all, any press is good press. Right?
What’s Your Definition of Good?
If your goal is for press to make you famous and you aren’t worried about the distinction between famous and infamous, then any press is certainly good press. I don’t think a kind word has ever been written about Charles Manson, but you know who he is. Mission accomplished? (In his case, probably.) I’d never heard of Malaysia Airlines until two tragic accidents last year. Just this morning I saw an article about a Malaysia Airlines plane making an emergency stop in Australia due to a suspected fire. That sort of thing happens all the time, but generally doesn’t make global news. It isn’t very surprising that the “technically bankrupt” airline plans to rebrand in September. Bad press can absolutely achieve “awareness.” If that’s all your brand is after, any major disaster will do the trick. (Just ask BP.)
It Matters What You Measure
Most brands, however, are after something beyond awareness. We want people to buy something from us. In that case, sentiment matters. This is why the old PR measurement concept of Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) has been largely abandoned. Why was it ever used in the first place? Because before the world went digital, it was very difficult for PR professionals to measure the results of their work. All press had to be good press because we had no accurate way to tell the difference.
Good Press is Effective Press
Your brand or your client invests in PR for a reason, but it is strangely common that the reason is not clearly defined. Today’s technology makes it possible to measure the effectiveness of PR against almost any desired outcome, so identifying “good” press is all about understanding the brand’s objectives. Are you trying to increase web traffic, gain more social media followers, get more leads, or accelerate sales cycles? In that case, good press is press that does exactly those things.
I have a friend who occasionally says that his goal is to get his name mentioned in the Wall Street Journal - without the word “indicted” next to it. He’s got the right idea. The only time that any press is good press is when you are shooting for the most wanted list.