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Publicity (from French publicité) is the public visibility or awareness for any product, service or company. It may also refer to the movement of information from its source to the general public, often but not always via the media. The subjects of publicity include people (for example, politicians or celebrities), goods and services, organizations, and works of art or entertainment.

Art critic John Berger explains,

"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. It proposes to each of us that we transform ourselves, or our lives by buying. .publicity is not paid for something more."[1]

A publicist is someone that carries out publicity, while public relations (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 popular 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.

Public relations[edit]

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. This is done to provide a message to consumers without having to pay for direct time or space. This in return creates awareness and achieves greater credibility. After the message has been distributed, the publicist in charge of the information will lose control of how the message is used and interpreted, in contrast 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 on 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 individual, 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, in comparison to paid advertising.[5]


A publicist is a person whose job is to generate and manage publicity for a company, product, public figure (especially a celebrity), or work such as a book, movie, or band.

Though there are many aspects to a publicist's job, their main function[according to whom?] is to persuade the press to report about their client in the most positive way possible. Publicists identify "newsworthy" aspects of products and personalities to offer to the press as possible reportage ideas. They are also responsible for shaping reportage about their clients in a timely manner that fits within a media outlet's news cycle. They attempt to present a newsworthy story in a way that influences editorial coverage in a certain, usually positive, direction. This is what is generally referred to as "spin."

A publicist generally serves as a bridge between a client and the public[8][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] With regard to a crisis situation, publicists often attempt to use the situation as an opportunity to get their organization's or client's name into the media.[9] Elizabeth L. Toth describes 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.) in order to “sell” a story and help gain further coverage for their clients.[9] This is supported by the press agentry/publicity model which is often used within the fashion, sporting, and entertainment industries, following the presumption that even bad news can be good publicity.[9]

Publicists are most often categorized under a marketing arm of a company.

Effectiveness of publicity[edit]

The phrase any press is good press was 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.

For example, the Australian Tourism Board's "So where the bloody hell are you?" advertising campaign was initially banned in the UK, but the amount of publicity the ban generated resulted in the official website[10] for the campaign being swamped with requests to see the banned ad. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, upon visiting Australia, said "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?"[11]

Publicity is known to contain high credibility,[citation needed] making it more influential in comparison to other market-driven communications. This in itself can affect consumers' thoughts by catching them 'off-guard,’[5] applying differentiation between advertising.[further explanation needed] The use of publicity may also[according to whom?] influence a consumer's attitude towards an advertisement or brand because of its high credibility value, in order to assess the trustworthiness of further information within a marketplace. The effect of positive publicity is also said[by whom?] to complement advertising in predictable ways, as opposed to the effects of negative publicity, which seem to be mitigated through advertising, eventually adding to the creation of brand familiarity. Furthermore, publicity highly disputes[how?] the idea of trying to persuade a consumer's feelings towards the brand and focus more towards how they feel, think, and remember things in relation to the brand or client.[citation needed]

Negative publicity[edit]

Publicity can also create a negative effect for those being publicized. One of the most important factors[according to whom?] in relation to influencing a consumer's buying decision is how a company, brand, or individual deals with negative publicity. Negative publicity may result in major loss of revenue or market shares within a business.[12] It can also play a part in damaging a consumer's perception of a brand or its products.[12][13] Negative publicity's high credibility and greater influence compared to other company-controlled communications play a part in the potential damage it may have on a corporate image. Crises involved with an organization may also result in negative publicity.[14]

Furthermore, negative publicity affects everything from the evaluation of a brand and product to the present firm net value and sale.[clarification needed] Often, when awareness of a company, brand, or individual is high, negative publicity is deemed to hurt possible sales. In contrast, companies, brands, and individuals who are not widely known may use the negative publicity in order to increase brand awareness among the public.[15]

The extensive range of media outlets, including both traditional and new media, provide opportunities for companies to market their products or services. This, however, restricts or reduces the ability to manage negative publicity, as their message may be spread across media outlets.[13] In order for organizations to try salvage any negative publicity surrounding their brand, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is one solution which can help protect the image of a company or help reverse the damage. Companies must adopt the CSR approach early for it to be effective, or potential risks such as falsified intentions may develop within a consumer's perception.[16]

Despite the damaging effect negative publicity may cause, negative publicity may not always have the expected effect.[15]. There is a possibility that negative publicity may in fact gain more attention as opposed to positive publicity.[12] Regardless of the nature of negative publicity and its ability to turn most people away, any slight hint of negative publicity can in fact build interest amongst the consumer. As states 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.[13]


Examples of promotional tactics include:

  • Announcing an appointment
  • Arranging a speech or talk
  • Arranging for a testimonial
  • Conducting a poll or survey
  • Event sponsorship
  • Inventing, then presenting, an award
  • Issuing a commendation
  • Issuing a report
  • Making an analysis or prediction
  • Organizing a tour of a business or project site
  • Staging a debate
  • Taking a stand on a controversial subject

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Australia, Tourism (12 January 2017). "Visit Australia - Travel & Tour Information - Tourism Australia".
  11. ^ "UK's Blair asks Where the bloody hell am I?". 2006-03-27. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ 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.