Ever heard the saying “bad news travels fast” ? 

Well I’m starting to think this is the saying that lots of PR and Publicity firms are starting to live by.
Good news or bad news?
When was the last time a celebrity got huge amounts of publicity, simply because they’d done something nice? When was the last time a footballer made the evening news because he didn’t cheat on his wife and they are happily married? Um…. Never.
But the thing is, ‘bad press’ works.  Just take a look at Samantha Brick, who released a controversial [is an understatement] article on the Daily Mail website, declaring her beauty and the fact that women hate her. I’m not a regular reader of the Daily Mail (online or offline) but when I saw my twitter and facebook feeds hotting up about someone called Samantha Brick – I thought I’d take a look. I’ll admit it – I didn’t go and look before this Samantha woman sounded like a nice girl – I visited the Daily Mail site because of bad press. Would the article have had nearly as many hits if Samantha hadn’t received so much bad press? No chance. Did Samantha know the reaction would be this strong? Lets put it this way – she is far from stupid. Things rarely (if ever) just happen.

Not that the Daily Mail are complaining though – they had about 1.5 million hits to the Samantha Brick article, and so much press coverage it was unbelievable. Even the intellectual types like Stephen Fry were giving their verdicts (and I’m willing to bet a large amount of money that Stephen Fry doesn’t ordinarily visit the Daily Mail website).

But it’s not just Samantha Brick who has used this “bad press” technique. Many celebrities and public figures gain huge amounts of publicity from bad press – and lets not be naive any more and assume that celebrities and brands hate bad press. All press is good press as many Hollywood agents will tell you.

So who else fits the bill?

Charlie Sheen: Winning

This guy had a rough couple of months in late 2010 and 2011.
He was branded “crazy” and a “junkie” by most national newspapers and online publications, both in the UK and USA (and lets face it, worldwide). His face seemed to be a regular feature on news broadcasts and gossip shows, with ever more frequent occurrences popping up that seemed to prove the taunters right. But Charlie Sheen was in his own world (and remains there). If anything, although the bad press lost him his job – he became an internet legend. His interviews and quotes made him an ultimate modern hero. And the less he defended his actions, the cooler we thought he was.

It’s always Friday for Rebecca Black

Rebecca Black began her showbiz journey as a nobody whose parents paid a small fee so she could have a “professional recording experience”. This experience however, soon shot her to fame when it was dubbed “horrendously bad” (but kind of awesome) by everyone who watched it. It wasn’t just Rebecca Black’s singing that got bad press though, it was the whole package. The lyrics (Today is Friday, tomorrow is Saturday), the wardrobe choices, the voice manipulation, the fact that the video featured a 14 year old driving a car… the list goes on. And on. But despite all this bad press, Rebecca Black wouldn’t have got anywhere without it. Do you think most debut artists get 160+ million views on their first single in a matter of weeks? That question is rhetorical, they don’t. She’s since set up her own record label, been featured in Katy Perry’s music video, been on hundreds of prime time TV shows and is planned to release her first album. Not bad from the girl who is responsible for “the worst song ever”.

Ryanair – Pay per Pee

Ever noticed how every couple of months the big boss behind Ryanair releases a new press release that shocks and appalls the general public? Like his Pay-per-Pee scheme (yes, seriously) where he proposed to introduce a peeing charge for short haul flights. Or his standing flight tickets – where customers could opt to stand for their entire flight – with the incentive of getting their ticket at a cheaper price. None of these hair brained schemes every get Ryanair good publicity – but that’s not the point. It gets the name out there and it gets people taking.

John Prescott – throwing the punches

For those of you who roll in the political circles more than the celebrity ones –  in 2001 politician John Prescott did the unthinkable and punched a protester who had thrown an egg at him. At first the media went into an uproar, calling Prescott a brute and violent, angry man… the general public however had a much different view. Prescott was seen as a mini hero for sticking up for himself and his popularity actually increased.

So what do you think? Is it worth the gamble?

Not all brands and companies can get away with opting for a controversial or bad press option – and some people (Rebecca Black, we’re looking at you) fall into it completely by accident and the success is more fluke than planning.