If your product sucks, PR can’t help you

February 15, 2012

Public relations

The picture pretty much says it all. If your product sucks, PR won't help. I promise (Image credit: ggbenitezpr.com).


This is one of those things you don’t feel like needs to be said until you work with corporate America a while and realize…boy, does this need to be said.

If your product sucks, PR can’t help you. Neither can marketing, advertising or any other form of communications you can think of. If your product sucks, breaks, never worked in the first place, then you’re screwed. End of story. And no one can’t help you tweet your way out of it.

If your product sucks, you can write all the key messages you want. You can work harder than you ever have before to control the message. But at the end of the day, the message your customers will say loud and clear will be that your product sucks. And let me be clear that they’d be saying it sucks whether or not social media existed. Online or offline.

If your product sucks, you can tweet and Facebook apologies to customers. A lot of them. Or you can ignore complaints via social media because you don’t want to add fuel to the fire. But guess what? Your customers will eventually be having a gasoline party outside your building and everyone who comes in gets a free pack of smokes and a Zippo. Btw, hollow apologies with no actual resolution also suck.

Steve Jobs worked really hard to control the message at Apple. And Apple rarely does much with social media. In reality, Apple breaks a lot of the new communications rules other companies follow. But it doesn’t matter. Because their products don’t suck. Not even a little. Not even at all.

If your product sucks, that Q&A document you spent a long time on isn’t going to help. And your executive media training better have included a course on being a real person and showing some tact. Because that’s all that will help. And it won’t help much.

If your product sucks, your inside baseball explanations of how “these things happen from time to time” and “if you just follow these 17 steps it will work correctly” will fall on deaf ears. Actually, what will really be deafening is the laughter of your customers as they listen to your ridiculous explanations and try to keep a straight face.

If your product sucks, your cross-functional team is simply going to be fielding comments about how badly your product sucks from more channels than usual. Now this type of team should at least allow you to share insights with senior leadership or the product team about how bad the product sucks. But if no one listens to those insights and acts on them, then you’re listening approach won’t really mean a whole lot.

If your products sucks, that strategic plan you wrote can pretty much be thrown out the window and replaced by one that says in big, bold 98-point font on the front page: YOUR PRODUCT SUCKS. FIX IT!

If your product sucks, no amount of PR can help you in the long run. No communications discipline or any other department with a fancy name like Innovation Laboratory or Social Understanding and Communications Knowledge Station (SUCKS) can alter your brand perception.

If your product sucks, all PR can do is be your conduit to the voice of the customer and let you know what they’re saying about your brand and how they feel about you as a company. PR can provide you counsel on how to approach the situation.

But if you aren’t willing to listen to your customers and fix the product, then PR can’t help you. And that sucks for you.

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dave_link 6 pts

Sadly, there are a number of companies that get away with providing sup-par or flat out bad services because there are few alternatives for the consumers they serve. Take cable companies or cell service providers for example - both provide what many would consider spotty or average service at best, continually increasing price tags and both ignore the rather constant complaints of their customer bases. Yet both also rely on marketing and PR to try and spin how their services are really better for customers without providing real value.

That being said, I agree 100% with your statements when it comes to product groupings where consumers have a wide variety from which to choose. Pledge can't come out with a spray that eats through wood finished coffee tables and simply say "tough luck" because there are 43 other wood cleaners out there that don't destroy their consumer's coffee tables. No amount of marketing, PR or spin efforts could save that type of product. I just wish those with captive consumers would take the same approach as those with something to lose :)

JGoldsborough 241 pts moderator

dave_link See your points and there are different cases depending on the industry. But that said, I have worked in the cell service provider industry before and can absolutely tell you that when your product -- which is the phone, wireless service and customer service -- suck, customers find the best case scenario and they share their discontent with the masses. Apologies and message control can curb some of what shows up online short term, but not the long-term perception of companies that suck in those areas.

Conversation from Twitter


@JamieVoorhies ha...yes. or better yet, just not pitch brands with bad product


@PublicityGuru Finally. PR is not a magic wand.


http://t.co/m1gENt7V #Classic ! LWCOMM If ur product sucks, PR can't help you


Sure it can mattlacasse jgoldsborough - temporarily. It can get the product in front of a lot of eyeballs. Who will then say it stinks...


jgoldsborough Disagree. Think of all the losing sports teams with devoted fans. Like um, the ones you root for. ;-) They have great PR!


jbtaylor The great PR for the #Royals is how good their product was in the 80s. Still livin' off it :).