All Publicity is Good Publicity

Photo Credit: Bill Ruhsam, licensed under creative commons

Photo Credit: Bill Ruhsam, licensed under creative commons

Posted by: Spencer Vasey

About a week ago, I read an article on the Huffington Post about a cancer survivor named Monika Allen that was furious at Self magazine for mocking her and a friend in their April issue. In a section titled “BS Meter,” there was a picture of the two women alongside a caption ridiculing them for running a marathon in tutus.

Since the story first broke a week ago, there have been articles on every major news website. Bloggers and social media users have picked up the story and ran with it, increasing publicity tenfold. Self’s Facebook page is full of nasty comments and promises of cancelled subscriptions. Self is in the midst of a major PR crisis.

Now don’t get me wrong, I feel horrible for Monika Allen and the fact that Self publicly shamed her for such a noble cause. It’s even worse that they didn’t tell her what their intentions were when they asked permission to use her picture.

However, in the week since this story broke, Allen’s business, Glam Runner, which makes tutus to support the nonprofit Girls on the Run, has almost doubled their revenue from the past three years. Allen has had the opportunity to go on national television and speak out for her cause. Self has agreed to cover future Girls on the Run events in their magazine and online.

Even though this was a negative situation, a lot of good came out of it. Think of all the young girls that will benefit from the donations and publicity this has generated for Girls on the Run.

Which begs me to ask the question, is there such a thing as bad publicity? Do you think that this Self controversy caused more harm or good for Allen and her foundation? Are there any other examples where bad publicity has actually somewhat benefited the victim?

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12 responses to “All Publicity is Good Publicity

  1. This is an interesting take on this issue, and I really enjoyed reading your perspective on it. On one hand, Girls on the Run did receive a lot of attention because of the conflict, but SELF certainly and deservedly did not. I wouldn’t say all publicity is good publicity—after all, the SELF Facebook comments certainly show that. However, I would say every publicity has the potential to be good. I found a follow-up article on SELF’s website publishing an admittance of their error and featuring a positive article about Monika Allen titled “My Conversation with the Awesome Monika Allen.” It was written by EIC Lucy Danziger, which either shows a brilliant PR move or that they’re taking the issue seriously. Nice post! I hadn’t heard about this.

  2. ariellamiesner

    This story kind of relates to Brian’s post about Phelps bringing attention to the LGBT community. Clearly Phelps had horrible ideas in regards to the LGBT community, but the horribleness of those ideas brought the larger the community together to support LGBT rights and fight for them as well. In the same way, the tutu runners clearly deserve the publicity and SELF really helped them out with their horrible “BS Meter” section.
    Journalists at this level aren’t inept, (we hope), they can take care of themselves,( again, we hope). If they want to publish a hateful piece, then that is their prerogative. What society, and communities reading the article do with that piece is what’s really important. And clearly in the situation of the tutu runners readers stepped up and stood for what’s right.
    I think most publicity is good. It gets issues out there and allows, hopefully, for communities to get involved and have their voices heard.

    • Exactly. In both of these cases, although it was unfortunate that the publicity had to come about in this way, it ended up being a positive thing for the victims. I think it says a lot about the public that they are able to see past what the media says and turn a bad situation into a positive one.

  3. I read about this on a fashion website I follow and was appalled by SELF’s lack of research and frankly – lack of humanity. The “BS meter” is cold, calculating and judgmental. Not only does this portray lack of professionalism in journalism, it also calls into question the magazine as a whole. As for the publicity, I think it has turned a tragic mistake into a voice for a great cause. I think Monika Allen definitely deserves all the attention, press and applause she is receiving, not only because of what she has gone through, but because of the way she was treated by a publication that should have offered her support instead of petty, pathetic condemnation.

    • I think what bothers me even more than Self’s lack of research is the fact that they didn’t tell her what they would be using the picture for when they initially contacted Allen. How are people supposed to trust the media when they do “sneaky” things like that? I’m glad this ended well for her, but the more I think about it the more it concerns me that events like this are going to create poor reputations for the media.

  4. I’m glad that Allen’s tutu business has seen such success since this, but if I was here, I would still feel bad. I see the increase in business as pity purchases, not purchases because people actually need or like the product. All publicity is good publicity if you don’t care why people are paying attention to you. If you’re like me and you’re a little more self-aware than that, I don’t want people talking about me unless it’s for something positive.

    • But I think that people are talking about her for something positive. It’s Self that is getting the bad publicity, not Allen. In my eyes, who cares if they are getting “pity” purchases? The cause is still benefitting. And I would be willing to bet there are a lot of people that are purchasing her products and donating to Girls on the Run because they believe in the cause. They never would have known about the organization had this incident not occurred.

  5. I agree with Marissa on this one. I think that it is clearly a good ending to what could have been a complete disaster, but the tragedy that unfolded to get it there is unfortunate. I think that the end result being so positive is only blinding the bigger issue at hand and that was the journalistic negligence that first started the whole deal. I think that Allen probably looks back on this whole thing as an amazing experience and grateful that it has raised the awareness that it has. We still should hold the journalism standards high and be sure there are consequences, regardless of how the people may or may not have reacted in the end.

    • If we’re looking at this solely from a journalistic point of view, I agree. This was poor journalism all around. And I am in no way saying that it is good that this event occurred. What I am saying is that when you look past the poor journalism, for the Girls on the Run organization, this ended up being positive situation because they will be able to help so many more people because of this raised awareness.

  6. Personally, I think in this case the result of that “bad publicity” is good and they´ve earn a lot, but what if this publicity was not causing that reaction? This is one of those cases that make me keep in mind the importance of asking for permission to use someone´s picture and specifying how it´s going to be used or for what. I would get really mad if that happened to me and someone post my picture making fun of me. On the other hand I don´t think she is complaining when it ended up being something very good. In my opinion she´s not in the right to complain anymore if she´s accepting the good things this “bad publicity” caused.

    • I agree. I have a huge problem with the way that the photo was obtained. It’s unfortunate that Self did not hold themselves to a higher standard and honestly ask for permission to use the photo. But that being said, in the end, something great came out of this situation.

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