Definition of Negative Publicity

Negative publicity refers to unfavorable information or content about a brand, company, product, or individual that is disseminated through digital channels. This can include social media, online forums, review websites, blogs, and news articles. Such negative coverage can harm a brand’s reputation, customer perception, and overall business performance.


The phonetic transcription of “Negative Publicity” is:/’nɛɡətɪv ‘pʌblɪsɪti/

Key Takeaways

  1. Negative Publicity can lead to a damaged brand reputation, resulting in lost consumer trust and decreased sales or support for the company’s products or services.
  2. Handling negative publicity professionally and effectively is essential to mitigating its impact and demonstrating accountability and responsiveness to customers and stakeholders.
  3. Proactively monitoring for potential sources of negative publicity, such as customer complaints and social media discussions, enables businesses to address issues before they escalate and become public relations crises.

Importance of Negative Publicity

Negative publicity is an important digital marketing term as it pertains to any unfavorable or harmful information about a company or individual that gets disseminated in the digital landscape, impacting their overall reputation and public image.

While it may at times draw attention to the brand, this exposure often comes at the expense of trust and consumer goodwill.

Consequently, businesses must monitor and address negative publicity promptly to minimize potential damage, improve customer relations, and reinforce brand messaging.

By understanding the power and implications of negative publicity, organizations can better manage their online presence, mitigate risks, and ultimately, safeguard their brand’s reputation.


Negative publicity, in the realm of digital marketing, serves as an unconventional and often unintentional strategy for garnering attention and raising awareness about a brand, product, or an individual. The core principle behind it is rooted in the belief that “any publicity is good publicity,” even if it stems from unfavorable situations, scandals, or controversial issues.

When negative publicity is disseminated across various digital channels such as social media, news outlets, or blogs, it captures the attention of audiences and stimulates a flurry of conversations and debates, which in turn, can result in increased engagement, higher search rankings, and even an extended reach in some cases. However, the utilization of negative publicity as a marketing tool should be approached with caution, as its effects can sometimes backfire and cause irreparable damage to the brand’s reputation or values.

In cases where the negative attention is unintentional, businesses should make diligent efforts to address the situation, rectify any fallout, and communicate transparently with their stakeholders. But in instances where negative publicity is deliberately embraced, marketers must be strategic in leveraging this exposure in an attempt to foster positive brand recognition.

Emphasis must be placed on mitigating, or potentially capitalizing on, the potential risks and limitations of this strategy, as negative publicity can serve as an unconventional catalyst for a brand’s growth and success when managed carefully and astutely.

Examples of Negative Publicity

United Airlines Passenger Incident (2017): In April 2017, United Airlines faced significant negative publicity when a video of a passenger being forcibly removed from the flight went viral on social media. The passenger, Dr. David Dao, was violently dragged off the plane due to an overbooking issue. Public outrage over the incident led to a PR crisis for United, causing their stock prices to drop and damaging their reputation.

Pepsi’s “Live for Now” Ad Campaign (2017): Pepsi released a commercial featuring model Kendall Jenner participating in a protest, where she hands a Pepsi can to a police officer, seemingly resolving the conflict. The ad received widespread criticism for trivializing serious social issues and making light of protests. Pepsi pulled the ad within 24 hours of its release, and the massive negative publicity impacted the brand’s image.

H&M’s “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” Hoodie (2018): Clothing retailer H&M faced negative publicity after featuring a young black model wearing a hoodie with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle” on their website. The image was perceived as racially insensitive, as “monkey” has historically been used as a racial slur. The backlash on social media resulted in several high-profile celebrities cutting ties with the brand. H&M issued an apology and removed the product from their stores.

Negative Publicity FAQs

1. What is negative publicity?

Negative publicity is any unfavorable attention or information about a company, product, or service that can potentially harm its reputation. This could include negative news stories, social media posts, customer reviews, or any other publically visible content that portrays the subject in a negative light.

2. How can negative publicity affect a business?

Negative publicity can lead to a loss of customers, decreased sales, lower employee morale, and a decline in overall brand reputation. In some cases, it can also result in legal or regulatory action, tarnishing the company’s image even further. It is important for businesses to address negative publicity promptly and effectively to minimize any potential damage.

3. What are some common causes of negative publicity?

Common causes of negative publicity include poor customer service, faulty or unsafe products, unethical business practices, questionable marketing campaigns, or negative actions by employees or company leadership. These issues can lead to negative news articles, social media backlash, customer protests, or boycotts.

4. How can a company respond to negative publicity?

When faced with negative publicity, a company should take the following steps: acknowledge the issue, express concern and empathy, provide an explanation if warranted, outline a plan for addressing the problem and preventing its recurrence, and communicate these actions to the relevant stakeholders. A timely and transparent response can help contain the damage and demonstrate the company’s commitment to rectifying the situation.

5. Can negative publicity have any positive effects on a business?

In some cases, negative publicity can lead to increased awareness and ultimately benefit a company. This is known as the “Streisand effect” wherein attempting to suppress information may inadvertently draw more attention to it. This phenomenon can result in increased exposure and even improved sales if the issue is addressed effectively and boosted interest among consumers. However, this outcome is rare, and it is generally not ideal for a business to rely on negative publicity for growth.

Related Digital Marketing Terms

  • Crisis Management
  • Reputation Repair
  • Public Relations
  • Social Media Backlash
  • Brand Image Damage

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