Sarah Whelband | Why controversy can be a good thing for your PR
One well-known definition of PR states: “PR is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you”.
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Why controversy can be a good thing for your PR

16 Sep Why controversy can be a good thing for your PR

One well-known definition of PR states: “PR is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you”.

This, in the main, is all about getting others (whether that’s customers, media or other stakeholders) to talk positively about you, to enhance your reputation, to ultimately grow your business.

But there are people that have managed to make a living out of the opposite – think Katie Hopkins. She courts controversy, and she may well think that she’s a success, she’s done very well out of it financially, thank you very much. Now I’m not suggesting that this is a good strategy to take, but in some cases, a bit of controversy can do wonders for your brand.

For one, it draws attention to yourself. In such a crowded marketplace where thousands of companies are trying to fight for space to be heard on social media and in the traditional media, saying something against the norm is one way of standing out. It’s easy to blend in, toe the party line, and take the same stance as your competitors on industry issues, but then what’s the difference between you?

Going against the grain is a reason for a journalist to pick you out from the crowd, after all, they’re looking for something different too, they want to write a different story to their competitors, if someone is offering a fresh differing opinion, they’re more likely to use it.

So, if you want to use controversy as a way to build your profile, what are the key things to remember?

There’s no point being controversial for the sake of it. Taking the example of Katie Hopkins again, people expect her to come out and say something that people object to, that’s how she’s positioned herself, and she’s done it so often now, that it’s getting boring.

Being controversial works when it’s genuine, and when it’s used on the odd occasion, you don’t want controversy overkill. You really have to mean what you say, there’s no point disagreeing with something when you don’t truly believe it, it not only looks disingenuous, you’ll probably be found out too.

It has to be in the right context. If you suddenly come out and say something that’s fairly political about immigrants for example, and you are a hairdresser that’s never said anything more in the public domain than commenting on a celebrity’s latest hairstyle, it’s going to look a little odd. It doesn’t fit with your brand, or fit with what you are trying to achieve. So just be wary of the topic you pick.

In a nutshell, controversy can work for you, it can leverage your public profile, but it needs to be done little and often, and when it’s right for you and your brand. It’s good to stir up the hornet’s nest, but only when it enhances your reputation, and doesn’t damage it.

If you’d like some advice on how whether you should take a particular stance on an issue, and how this might affect your brand, then please get in contact, I’m more than happy to advise you.

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