Courting controversy to get PR

From Build Your Brand by Cultivating Controversy by Dan Kennedy:

For companies, controversy and/or bad news and bad press can be dangerous, yet many brands are surprisingly resilient, and many even benefit from dynamite exploding in their hands. A short-term media or social media reaction, pro or con or both, to a company or its owner, CEO, celebrity endorser, or other “face” taking a controversial position or otherwise getting into troubled waters often has little or no lasting negative impact and can, instead, have positive impact, in making a larger population aware of the brand or at least rallying the loyalists. Some entrepreneurs who own valuable personal or corporate brands even intentionally, repeatedly court controversy.

Anytime you personally take a potentially controversial position or attach your company or brand to one, you do take risks. However, if you’re going to court controversy, you should do it consciously and deliberately, not casually or impulsively.

The Trump Technique of picking a fight with a villain or enemy can be an effective way to use controversy with little or no risk if you choose carefully, attack broadly and know your brand loyalists and target market well.

4 thoughts on “Courting controversy to get PR

  1. The article suggests that the safest way to court controversy is to attack other people, and the author gives examples of broad groups of people and named individuals who he’s attacked.

    I must admit, I’m not comfortable with attacking other people to reach your goals.

    • David,

      What leads you to conclude that the author is prescribing belligerence? He says “court”, which, by definition, would seem to preclude outright attack. Throw in his statement that one must be conscious and deliberate in this effort, and I begin to wonder if you and I are reading the same post.

      Besides, a fight against villainy is never attack but deliverance.

      Case study to shift your interpretation of controversy:

      I moved to the Bay Area in October and joined the FutureAdvisor team in December.

      This past week, we unveiled a billboard – our first – on the 101. It’s layout is simple, with white text atop a lurid, red canvas, and reads:

      “Not employee #3 at WhatsApp? We’ve got you covered.”

      It’s an illustration of the sort of controversy to which I believe the author is referring. I hope at least it provides you another angle to consider.

      • Hi Statisdev, I interpreted the article that way because it gives examples of specific individuals he picked to target.

        But I generally view my comments on the articles as less valuable than the articles themselves for exactly this reason: I hope to post helpful articles and leave it to readers to interpret them and think of applications to their own circumstances.

      • Yeah, I meant to delete this immediately after sending. I had entirely misunderstood who was writing what… A bout of psychosis if you will.

        However, I then couldn’t find it so I hoped it had not sent – ha ha.

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