Although crisis cripples brands, negative coverage is a killer

by | Jun 20, 2017 | Public Relations

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity”—we’ve all heard it repeatedly, but new research reveals that the iconic adage may no longer apply. United’s recent PR crisis was so poorly received by consumers that 53 percent now say they are less likely to continue purchasing tickets from United—and all the negative media coverage around the incident just fanned the flames, according to new research from B2B research company Clutch.

Negative press coverage that companies generate seemingly has a direct impact on consumers’ purchasing decisions. The survey finds that when considering a high-cost purchase, like a plane ticket, double the amount of consumers care about a company’s presence in the news than they do when making low-cost purchases. According to the report, 52 percent of consumers say they do not believe United handled the situation correctly, influencing them to change their buying behavior in a way that weakens the United brand.

53% of Consumers Are Less Likely to Buy Plane Tickets from United Airlines in Response to PR Mishap

Clutch interviewed David Kippen, CEO of Evviva Brands and industry expert in branding and PR, to gather his thoughts on the relationship between press coverage and consumer purchase decisions.

“The bottom line is, if I’m making a high-cost investment as a consumer, I’m generally buying a durable consumer good or investing in a future event. If that’s the case, then I’m going to be much more concerned about the future status of a company in which I’m making the investment,” said Kippen, according to a news release.

Additionally, Clutch’s report finds that 52 percent of consumers use social media more than any other media outlet. As a result, news stories can travel at a more rapid rate than ever before. Brands, then, are at a greater risk of falling in the minds of consumers who may witness a negative news event and change their opinion of that brand for the worse, the report claims.

United Airlines is a direct example of this phenomenon. According to the survey, 46% of consumers who are aware of United’s latest PR mishap also have a negative perception of the brand.

53% of Consumers Are Less Likely to Buy Plane Tickets from United Airlines in Response to PR Mishap

Clutch’s survey also explores the PR incidents of top-name brands including Pepsi and Chick-Fil-A to get a deeper understanding of the way consumers’ perceptions of brands change in response to negative news coverage.

The report also includes excerpts from experts in the PR and branding industries to advise companies on the importance of having a solid PR strategy to maintain a brand’s value and consumer following.

Read the complete report here.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at; @BulldogReporter


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