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Publicity (from French publicité, from public ‘public’) is the movement of information to the general public from the media. The subjects of publicity includes people (for example, politicians and performing artists), goods and services, organizations, and works of art or entertainment.

Publicity is gaining public visibility or awareness for a product, service or your company via the media. It is the publicist that carries out publicity, while PR is the strategic management function that helps an organization communicate, establishing and maintaining communication with the public. This can be done internally, without the use of media.

From a marketing perspective, publicity is one component of promotion and marketing. The other elements of the promotional mix are advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing and personal selling. Examples of promotional tactics include:

  • Announce an appointment
  • Arrange a speech or talk
  • Arrange for a testimonial
  • Art people
  • Conduct a poll or survey
  • Event sponsorship
  • Invent then present an award
  • Issue a commendation
  • Issue a report
  • Make an analysis or prediction
  • Organize a tour of your business or projects
  • Stage a debate
  • Take a stand on a controversial subject

The advantages of publicity are low cost and credibility (particularly if the publicity is aired in between news stories like on evening TV news casts). New technologies such as weblogs, web cameras, web affiliates, and convergence (phone-camera posting of pictures and videos to websites) are changing the cost-structure. The disadvantages are lack of control over how your releases will be used, and frustration over the low percentage of releases that are taken up by the media.

Publicity draws on several key themes including birth, love, and death. These are of particular interest because they are themes in human lives which feature heavily throughout life. In television series, several couples have emerged during crucial ratings and important publicity times as a way to make constant headlines. Also known as a publicity stunt, the pairings may or may not be according to the fact.

"Publicity is not merely an assembly of competing messages: it is a language in itself which is always being used to make the same general proposal," writes the art critic John Berger. "It proposes to each of us that we transform ourselves, or our lives by buying. .publicity is not paid for something more."[1]

Publicity is often referred to as the result of public relations in terms of providing favourable information to media and any third party outlets; these may including bloggers, mainstream media, as well as new media forms such as podcasts. All this is done to provide a message to consumers without having to pay for direct time or space. This in return creates awareness and carries out more credibility as well. After the message has been distributed, the publicist in charge of the information will lose control on how the message is used and interpreted, much different to the way it works in Advertising.[2] According to Grunig, public relations is often reduced to publicity. He also states how publicity is a form of activity in which should be associated with the sales promotion effort of a company, in order to help aid advertising and personal salesmanship as well.[3] Kent also stated that the doing of publicity can help attract attention whilst also supplying information regarding a specific organization or individual client and any event, activity or attribute associated with them.[4]

The use of publicity is also known to be an important strategic element and promotional tool due to its effect of intentional exposure over a consumer, this helps publicity gain a beneficial advantage over other marketing aspects such as Advertising[5] alongside its high credibility. Favourable publicity is also created through reputation management in which organizations try strive to control via the web.[6] Furthermore, despite the fact that publicity, both good or bad, can be beneficial for an organization, company or client, much of it is paid for despite claims that publicity is often free.[7] Despite publicity being an influential benefit within the marketing sector, one disadvantage which highly affects publicity, is the lack of ability in which publicity cannot be repeated as such compared to advertising.[5]


A publicist is a person whose job is to generate and manage publicity for a product, public figure, especially a celebrity, or for a work such as a book or movie or band. Publicists could work in large companies and in little companies.

Though there are many aspects to a publicist's job, their main function is to persuade the press to report about their client in the most positive way possible. Publicists are adept at identifying and pulling out "newsworthy" aspects of products and personalities to offer to the press as possible reportage ideas. Publicists offer this information to reporters in the specific format of a magazine, newspaper, TV or radio show, or online outlet. The third aspect of a publicist's job is to shape "stories" about their clients at a time that fits within a media outlet's news cycle.

Publicists are most often categorized under a marketing arm of a company. Marketing is anything that a company does to get their product into the hands of a customer who will pay for it. Publicity, specifically, uses the objective opinion of a reporter to tell that story. A seasoned publicist knows how to present a newsworthy story in a way that suggests editorial coverage in a certain direction. This is what is generally referred to as "spin," though it is not a negative connotation, only a very keen ability to present a story in a way that fits for a media outlet at the right time.

A publicist generally serves as a bridge between the relationship of a client and the public[8] and said to use any possible technique inorder to get favourable mentions within the media in regards to the information that they are willing to release.[2] Although day-to-day duties vary depending on what each clients needs consist of, the main focal point for a publicist is promotion.[8] When it comes to a crisis situation, Publicists often find themselves taking a more optimistic view in regards to seeing them as an opportunity to help get their organization or clients name into the media.[9] Furthermore, Toth goes on to describe how Press Agents, another form of publicists, are willing to intrigue news outlets, mainstream media and web blogs with “bad news” (celebrity drug addictions, divorces, scandals, sordid affairs etc.) inorder to “sell” a story and help gain further coverage for their clients as well.[9] This is supported by the Press Agentry/Publicity model in which is often used within the fashion, sporting and entertainment industry at which point follows the presumption that even bad news can be good publicity.[9]

Effectiveness of Publicity[edit]

"So where the bloody hell are you?" advertising campaign

The theory, Any press is good press, has been coined to describe situations where bad behaviour by people involved with an organization or brand have actually resulted in positive results, due to the fame and press coverage accrued by such events.

One example would be the Australian Tourism Board's "So where the bloody hell are you?" advertising campaign that was initially banned in the UK, but the amount of publicity this generated resulted in the official website for the campaign being swamped with requests to see the banned ad. This event had caused former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to show his support once setting foot in Australia by responding ''and here I am, in the Australian parliament building at what I think is something like four o'clock in the morning in the UK. And so I'm thinking, so where the bloody hell am I?''[10]

As previously mentioned, Publicity is known to contain high credibility, making it more influential amongst other market-driven communications. This in its self can affect consumers thoughts by catching them ‘off-guard’[5] applying differentiation between advertising. The use of publicity may also influence a consumers attitude towards an advertisement or brand because of its high credibility value in order to assess the trustworthiness or further information within a marketplace. The effect of positive publicity is also said to complement advertising in predictable ways, as opposed to the effects of negative publicity in which seem to be mitgated through advertising, eventually adding to the creation of brand familiarity. Furthermore, publicity highly disputes the idea of trying to persuade a consumers feelings towards the brand and focus more towards how they feel, think and remember things in relation to the brand or client. Edward Bernays had one quoted "it is important that any effort to influence or effect the American public that is not in the public interest be killed by the light of pitiless publicity and analysis".

Negative Publicity[edit]

The main focus for publicity is to create awareness for an organization, brand or individual. Despite this, publicity can also create a negative effect resulting in negative publicity. One of the most important factors in relation to influencing a consumers buying decision falls down to how a company, brand or individual deal with the negative publicity surrounding themselves. The power of negative publicity may also result in major loss of revenue or market shares within a business.[11] Negative publicity can also play a part in damaging a consumers perception of a brand or its products.[11][12] Its high credibility and greater influence compared to other company-controlled communications also play a part in negative publicity occurring and the potential damage it may have upon a corporate image. Crises involved with an organization may also result in negative publicity as well.[13]

Furthermore, negative publicity is seen to affect everything from the product and evaluation of a brand to the present firm net value and sale. Often when an awareness of a company, brand or individual is high, the negative publicity provided is deemed to hurt possible sales, where as company, brands and individuals whom of maintain a low awareness rate may use the negative publicity as a beneficial feature inorder to get their name across to the public.[14] The extensive range of media outlets, including both traditional and new media also provide companies new opportunities in which to market their products or services. This however, restricts or reduces the management of negative publicity that may be spread across involving their products or services offered.[12] In order for organizations to try salvage any negative publicity surrounding their brand, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is one solution in which can help protect the image of that certain company or help restore the effects caused. In favour of CSR remaining effective, company’s however, must adopt the CSR approach early or potential risks such as falsified intentions may develop within a consumer.[15]

Despite the damaging effect negative publicity may cause, there is a possibility that negative publicity may in fact gain more attention as opposed to publicity of a positive manner.[11] Regardless of the nature within negative publicity, and its ability to turn most people away, any slight hint of negative publicity can in fact build interest amongst the consumer and product/service offered to which positive effects are shown. Negative publicity surrounding a company can also influence product evaluations which in return increases the likelihood of purchase and sales as well.[14] As identified by Monga & John, negative publicity is not always harmful, and consumers whom identify a brand with strong attitudes are highly unlikely to be affected by the negative publicity formed.[12]


  1. ^ Berger, John (1972). Ways of Seeing. London, England: BBC. p. 131. ISBN 9780140135152. 
  2. ^ a b Mersham, G., Theunissen, P., & Peart, J. (2016). Public Relations and Communication Management: An Aotearoa/New Zealand Perspective. Auckland: Pearson.
  3. ^ Grunig, J. (1992). Excellence in public relations and communication management (pp. 263, 386). Hillsdale, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates.
  4. ^ Kent, M. (2011). Public relations writing (p. 15). Boston, Mass.: Allyn & Bacon.    
  5. ^ a b c Lord, K.; Putrevu, S. (1993). "Advertising and publicity: An information processing perspective". Journal Of Economic Psychology. 14 (1): 57–84. doi:10.1016/0167-4870(93)90040-r. 
  6. ^ Aula, P (2010). "Social media, reputation risk and ambient publicity management". Strategy & Leadership. 38 (6): 43–49. doi:10.1108/10878571011088069. 
  7. ^ Ehrenberg, A.; Barnard, N.; Kennedy, R.; Bloom, H. (2002). "Brand Advertising As Creative Publicity". Journal Of Advertising Research. 42 (4): 7–18. doi:10.2501/jar-42-4-7-18. 
  8. ^ a b Publicist. (2016). Retrieved 30 March 2016, from    
  9. ^ a b c Toth, E. (2009). The Future of Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management. Challenges for the Next Generation. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  10. ^ "UK's Blair asks Where the bloody hell am I?". 2006-03-27. Retrieved 2016-05-15. 
  11. ^ a b c Ahluwalia, R.; Burnkrant, R.; Unnava, H. (2000). "Consumer Response to Negative Publicity: The Moderating Role of Commitment". Journal Of Marketing Research. 37 (2): 203–214. doi:10.1509/jmkr. 
  12. ^ a b c Monga, A.; John, D. (2008). "When does negative brand publicity hurt? The moderating influence of analytic versus holistic thinking". Journal Of Consumer Psychology. 18 (4): 320–332. doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2008.09.009. 
  13. ^ Dean, D (2004). "Consumer Reaction to Negative Publicity: Effects of Corporate Reputation, Response, and Responsibility for a Crisis Event". Journal Of Business Communication. 41 (2): 192–211. doi:10.1177/0021943603261748. 
  14. ^ a b Berger, J.; Sorensen, A.; Rasmussen, S. (2010). "Positive Effects of Negative Publicity: When Negative Reviews Increase Sales". Marketing Science. 29 (5): 815–827. doi:10.1287/mksc.1090.0557. 
  15. ^ Vanhamme, J.; Grobben, B. (2008). "Too Good to be True!". The Effectiveness of CSR History in Countering Negative Publicity". J Bus Ethics. 85 (S2): 273–283. doi:10.1007/s10551-008-9731-2.