There is such a thing as bad publicity

It’s an adage of public relations that ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’, as if simply being in the public memory ensures the kind of success that leads to profits.

That can’t be. I remember Jeffrey Archer, Anthea Turner and wasshername – that gun-toting, twitching, winking, hockey mom… ah, yes, Sarah Palin – but no matter how large a chunk of valuable memory I inadvertently devote to them, it will never convince me they are valuable for anything other than how to get things woefully wrong. Is remembering someone or company for their huge failures really useful to them?

I doubt it, as the recent example of Neal’s Yard tells me.

I will forever remember Neal’s Yard, purveyor of expensive homeopathic potions and lotions, for their huge PR error in failing to answer many of the questions fired at them during a Guardian live debate. They forgot that the public can be a taxing lot, firing all sorts of awkward questions about how far the efficacy of these ‘remedies’ can be proven scientifically.

I’ll remember, too, being prompted to go online and find further evidence of how Neal’s Yard struggle to find what they might call a ‘PR solution’ to the inestimable problem of their claim that certain remedies can help prevent one of the world’s most deadly of diseases, malaria.

It’s these connections between memory and experience that prevent us from making the same mistakes twice. Bad publicity is a reminder that not all products and services – and ethics – are created equally and this bears no relation to the amount of infamy they occupy in our collective consciousness: lest we forget.

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