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Use Bad PR to Your Advantage in Your Job Search

A company’s bad press can be good news for your prospects

When you’re in a job search, or even when you’re just keeping on top of industry news, you’re bound to stumble on them: Companies that are experiencing bad publicity.

Bad publicity can have obvious, well, bad effects on a company. Customers and investors can lose confidence in the company and its brand, and prospective employees can see it in a negative light, too.

A study at Cornell University School of Industrial Labor Relations found that job seekers exposed to bad news about a prospective employer were much less attracted to it than those who only heard neutral information. Additionally, job seekers who heard negative information about a company were less likely to apply for jobs there.

A Bad-News, Good-News Situation

What this means for you, an opportunity-seeking job searcher, is if you do apply to a company going through a bit of a rough patch, you could be competing with a smaller-than-usual group of fellow applicants.

The upshot: Looking for a new job at a company that’s having a spot of bad press can be a smart job strategy. You can use the shortage of applicants to your advantage, do your research into what the bad news means for the company, and develop talking points about how you can help the company going forward.

Do Your Research

Of course, doing your research on an employer is an essential part of preparing for an interview. But when a company is undergoing distress because of some bad news, you’ve got to be more diligent than usual.

Become friends with Google News, and use it to search recent coverage on the company. Make sure you have a firm grasp on what news has been reported, who the players are and what is involved. Pay close attention to what the company itself says about what’s going on.

Look for the Silver Lining

There’s an old saying that in Chinese, the word “crisis” also means “opportunity.”

That’s now been refuted, but there is something to the notion that how a company handles bad news is ultimately more important that the bad news itself.

Do your research to learn what the company is doing not just to put this situation behind it, but to learn from it. After all, you are applying to work at the company that will emerge after this setback, not the one that created it.

Below are a few employers on our job board that, while having had a recent brush with bad news, are still amazing companies, and are hiring now.

1. JWT

The Bad News: An employee files a discrimination suit against the advertising agency’s then-CEO Gustavo Martinez, claiming he made jokes about raping female colleagues and mocking minorities.

The Good News: Martinez resigns, and parent company WPP Group’s chief client team officer Tamara Ingram, already one of the highest-level women in advertising, assumes the role of CEO. Some observers think more whistleblowers may be inspired to come forward as a result of the suite.

The Openings

Account Director
Media Partnerships Manager
Senior Art Director
Senior Planner
Social Community Manager

2. Bonnier Corporation

The Bad News: The Swedish publishing conglomerate, publisher of Saveur and Working Mother, among others, falls victim to e-mail spoofing when hackers breached the outgoing CEO’s email and sent instructions to accounts payable to make two fraudulent wire transfers in the amount of $1.5 million each.  

The Good News: The company was able to stop and reverse the second transfer. Internal investigations found there was no evidence of embezzlement by an insider, or theft of employees’ personal information.

The Openings

Senior Events Programmer
Sales and Marketing Coordinator

3. Meredith Corporation

The Bad News: Meredith Corporation, the publishing company behind such publications as Parents and Martha Stewart Living, closes More magazine after 19 years of publication, saying it has decided to cease publication in order to “invest and align its resources against more profitable activities.”

The Good News: Investors gain confidence in the public company.

The Openings

Account Executive
Centralcast Operator
Copy Editor
Digital Business Analyst
Research Manager – Brand Strategy

Family Circle

Associate Editor

Martha Stewart Living

Devops Engineer
Engagement and Acquisition Manager
Executive Digital Editor
Executive Editor
Executive Editor, Weddings
Executive Producer
Fashion/Market Editor
Front End Developer
Managing Editor Contributor Network
Senior Editor
Social Media Manager

Meredith Hispanic Media

Associate Editor
Senior Designer


Art Assistant
News Editor

4. Wenner Media

The Bad News: Rolling Stone magazine, the crown jewel of Wenner Media, publishes “A Rape on Campus,” a story about the gang rape of a University of Virginia student at a fraternity. The story turns out to be fabricated.  

The Good News (Sort Of): Rolling Stone ask the Columbia School of Journalism to  investigate what went wrong in the writing and editing of the story, and retracts the story; the responsible editor resigns. But the saga continues as the fraternity sues the magazine for $25 million.

The Opening

Audience Development Coordinator

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