A PR colleague and I recently discussed a common PR problem: What can PR teams do to combat the online rumor mill?
Her organization was the target of a social media storm that she said was based on false information and rumors that then spurred news coverage which amplified the false narrative. She said her organization had committed to staying above the fray in its response. This meant the delivery of a response that was not confrontational and a deliberate choice.
Sometimes when organizations use terms like “stay above the fray,” what they are really saying is they want to avoid confrontation at all costs. Don’t be so quick to take that off the table as a possible strategy.
Confrontation doesn’t have to be about chest-beating and showmanship. The key is to stand your ground, calmly, clearly and unapologetically. Be prepared to engage in a rational dialogue if that is possible on the other side.
If you do choose to confront false accusations head-on, you need to do a stress test with your management team beforehand. Prepare them for the likelihood that the situation will become more intense before it gets better. Find out if they have the will to carry forward with this approach.