The Australian Small Business Blog

Monday, August 04, 2008

Turning Bad Publicity into Good

Imagine you have a business which is constantly criticised by the politically correct who seem to be able to get airtime effortlessly. How do you compete? You can advertise, but this is just dismissed as self promotion, and of course the largest outlet for the politically correct, the ABC doesn’t allow advertising (unless you are flogging a book or a play on a politically correct subject).

Well there is a way. You can get someone that the critics admire, and have even used in their own campaigns to endorse you. Let me present a case study.

Recently McDonalds put out a press release that they had developed a range of meals that have the Heart Foundation Tick of Approval. The critics went ballistic. They criticised McDonalds, they criticised the Heart Foundation. They were on every airwave denouncing the big bad US fast food company. They had always hated McDonalds. It's an American company. It is a multinational. It promotes fast food regarded as unhealthy – there is apparently no safe level of consumption for this food. This last argument being the one they push hardest as the others are obviously political.

Then that most trusted judge of what is good and bad to eat, the Heart Foundation, endorsed a range of McDonalds meals. How could they? How dare they? They could not argue that the Heart Foundation assessment of the meals was wrong. Their argument was that maybe someone might order a big Mac with their Heart Foundation approved salad!

How would all this help McDonalds? Firstly, the reporting that they had earned the Heart Foundation tick was received well in many quarters, if not the ABC. Secondly, the ABC and other disapproving media when reporting on this news, did, to their credit, interview people from the Heart Foundation and McDonalds who were able to put their case. In much of the coverage, their critics just sounded shrill. For McDonalds, it created the opportunity to access media channels that would normally be closed to them unless it was a bad news story.

The final picture that was left with media consumers, is that you can get healthy meals at McDonalds. In the reporting, McDonalds had the news, and the critics were just replaying the same old arguments that had been heard time and again. The critics had been wedged, and thus their arguments were diluted. McDonalds had taken them on directly, and all they had left was their politics.

Was McDonalds devious enough to plan this reaction from their critics to massively leverage their media exposure from a single day to weeks? I don’t know, but the reaction of the politically correct critics on border patrol was entirely predictable. They just couldn’t help themselves.

You can use controversy to promote your business, but make sure you have someone in authority’s tick of approval to back you up!

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.

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Dr. Greg Chapman is also the author of
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