16 Mar 2016

Sharapova proves that ‘all PR is not good PR’

Jessica Davis  – Senior Account Manager at Spreckley

Even before I truly knew what PR was, I’d heard the phrase ‘all PR is good PR’ and to some extent, it’s understandable why this became an expression in the first place.

However, it’s a notion that simply doesn’t hold true anymore (if it ever did), and in an age where we can access all news instantly via a range of channels, PR has become just as much about keeping certain stories out of the press as it is about placing stories.

In fact, the phrase is probably mostly used these days in a last desperate attempt to think positively about a situation – it has become one of those lines that is pulled out when something has gone horribly wrong. For a start, if it were true that all PR is good PR, there would surely be no need for crisis communications.

I also highly doubt that the management team and tennis star, Maria Sharapova herself believe that the recent press attention she’s had after failing a drugs test is ‘good PR’. Since the announcement, Sharapova has been banned by the International Tennis Federation, has come under fire from her fellow athletes and has lost huge sponsorship deals with the likes of Nike, Porsche and Tag Heuer. This backlash against her could not be described by anyone as remotely positive.

Having said that, the communications industry in particular has hailed Sharapova’s response as a ‘crisis communications blueprint’. She attacked the story head on and delivered the news to the world’s media herself, rather than denying claims in the more typical manner that we’ve become accustomed to. Although I wouldn’t say that this warrants calling the stories good PR, it does show that there can be both positive and negative outcomes from a largely negative story.

What will be interesting to see is how quickly the story blows over. Today’s news cycle is rapid and as quickly as something is played out in the media, it’s gone. Perhaps one saying that does still ring true to a certain extent is that ‘today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper’. We as the public are either incredibly forgiving or incredibly forgetful, as we move on just as quickly too. We’ve seen brands or celebrities come under fire for some sort of scandal, but welcomed back into the public’s hearts time and time again. Take Kate Moss, Chris Brown or even Starbucks – all of which have had huge negative attention but bounced back reasonably quickly from it.

There are many examples of bad publicity having a negative impact on a brand, company or person and I could go on and on. Although it’s clear to see that it can be overcome eventually, some damage will have certainly been sustained, at least in the short term. The fact of the matter is that all PR is not good PR.