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Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2006, 12:07 GMT
Is all publicity good publicity?
The Magazine answers...

The Hamiltons
Publicity seeking? The descent can be terrifying
The Kazakh president, responding to the Borat movie, says "all publicity is good publicity". Is that true?

It's become one of those lines that gets trotted out, usually when something has gone horribly wrong. Or else, it's the soundtrack to the last straw being grasped, when there's nothing else left to say that's positive.

Your country is depicted as backward and bigoted... so, "all publicity is good publicity," says the Kazakh premier Nursultan Nazarbayev about the mockumentary, Borat.

Question mark
A regular feature in the BBC News Magazine - aiming to answer some of the questions behind the headlines

This isn't an entirely unreasonable strategy. Flick through the television channels and there are people snacking on innards, crunchy insects and animal genitalia. And what they're really hungry for is publicity.

These I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Some Publicity contestants are already famous. Sort of. But they still feel the need for the publicity, good or bad and in whatever animal part-shape it might be served up.

The Goody Life

And for the proof of the pudding, look at the Jade Goody experience.

This former Big Brother contestant - who thought that "East Angular" was overseas - spent weeks being teased by the papers. But putting the "all press is good press" maxim to work, she is now a brass-plated fixture in the tabloids. And a wealthy woman to boot.

Michael Jackson
Does Michael Jackson enjoy the press cuttings these days?
Author, broadcaster and style expert Jade's new life was captured in the Sun: "It is 3pm in one of London's swankiest hotels and the world's press is gathered to meet two legendary figures - Nelson Mandela and Jade Goody."

So does the adage always hold true?

You can try too hard. The flip side of the Jade Goody rollercoaster is the train crash of the Hamiltons - from political high-flying to game-show gurning. Perhaps it depends on what the publicity-seeker has to lose.

There are plenty of others who might not go along with the "all publicity" theory.

Michael Jackson can't exactly be looking forward to seeing himself in the papers these days. A flick through the press cuttings shows that exactly three years ago today - he was number one in the charts and mired in allegations about his private life - the Daily Mail was able to say that, in his case, "no publicity is bad publicity".

With the benefit of hindsight, maybe not.

Book cancelled

The negative hype around OJ Simpson's sensitively-titled If I Did It is another example of the "bad publicity is bad publicity rule", particularly since his publishers now plan to pulp the book.

But even a PR disaster can have a silver lining. Rogue copies have proved a hit, albeit briefly, on an internet auction site. And before being cancelled, pre-publication orders put the book in Amazon's top 20.

William Hague
What was he thinking?
However, there's no escaping the damage that can be caused by the wrong kind of publicity. Seinfeld star Michael Richards is on the grovelling apology circuit after his racist outburst during a stand-up comedy routine last week. Maybe he could give Ron Atkinson and Mel Gibson a call to ask about all publicity being for the best.

In business, there are also gold-effect examples to disprove the theory. The Ratner jewellery brand never recovered from the blaze of publicity that followed Gerald Ratner's joke that their products were "total crap".

And in politics, profile raising can be a tricky business - especially if that profile includes a dodgy baseball cap, as in William Hague's attempt to look young and energetic at a theme park.

Searching in the cuttings for the "all publicity" mantra throws up quotes such as "Iain's view is that all publicity is good publicity, and he's certainly had plenty of it recently". Yup, Iain Duncan Smith.

Even if you're a larger than life character, there are some write-ups to be avoided. As playwright Brendan Behan said: "There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary."

Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

Given the trend for reality TV and the seeming ease with which it seems possible to obtain publicity these days, I suggest "All publicity is bad publicity" and "Anonymity is a precious thing" as accepted principles!
Marion Smith, Newark, Nottinghamshire

Having spent 30 years as a spin doctor I can tell you that there is such a thing as bad publicity: Ask Gerald Ratner. Why do you think governments and organisations spend so much effort ensuring that the world sees their actions in a positive light? Has all the bad publicity over Iraq had any negative effect? Ask George Bush.
Reformedspindoctor, Henley-on-Thames

Good is a relative term. While we might not think some of the publicity people get is good, they seem to do very well out of it. Considering the number of contestants from reality TV shows that have gone on to make large sums of money with almost no talent, the publicity might well look bad, but the money it brings certainly looks good.
DS, Bromley

I think the Kazakh premier is right - after seeing the film I am interested in finding out what Kazakhstan is really like, so i guess that's the sort of thing he's looking for
Lori, London

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