It is important to know your vulnerabilities.

If you are in a communications crisis situation, especially an adversarial reputation crisis, one of the first things you must understand is what are your vulnerabilities.

A vulnerability is a place where your detractors can hit you that will cause real damage. It doesn’t matter if 50,000 strangers on the Internet think you’re a jerk if it doesn’t affect you in any material way. However, if that message reaches certain key people, then it can be profoundly impactful.

Bosses. Clients. Business partners. Business associates. Family and friends. These are just a few examples people whom it would be very bad if they were to be affected by the misinformation being spread about you.

Taking action to defend vulnerabilities

If you are dealing with a misinformation situation, and the truth is really on your side (if the truth is not on your side, you need to get yourself in the right first) then there are few things you must do.

First, identify where your vulnerabilities exist. Do you have a boss who could fire you? Do you have key clients who might believe the stories?

Next, determine the best way to make sure that the story will not impact these areas of your life. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of knowing that you have sufficient trust with this person that they’ll stand by you. In other cases, you may want to tell them about the situation before they hear about it somewhere else.

There will also be cases where it’s not clear how big the firestorm will get, and you want to be careful not to spread the rumors where they would not go on their own. In those cases, you may just want to monitor the situation and be ready to respond if someone close to you does hear the story but not share it yourself.

The better people know you, the less likely they are to believe lies about you. This is why building a personal network is extremely important.

Awareness is key

Regardless of what action seems most prudent, awareness is most important. You must know where you vulnerabilities exist and give some thought to how you can defend those vulnerabilities.

You can’t protect what you don’t understand.

Are you facing a situation where a rumor or misinformation is threatening to cause real damage in your life? We can help. Contact us.

Outrage Tactics

What are outrage tactics? Outrage tactics comprise a communications strategy employed to general an emotional response to an issue by conflating it with a second issue about which people are inclined to become outraged.

Outrage tactics
Anything can be the subject of outrage tactics.

Politicians and pundits often use outrage tactics in to energize and motivate the base to action. “The War On Christmas,” “Rape Culture,” “Culture Wars,” “Patriarchy.” These are all terms which are used by people looking to stir up outrage which creates engagement. Once engaged, a person becomes more inclined to write letters, comment, share posts, show up to rallies, and share the idea with friends (and everyone else).

Voters can be polarized by these tactics. They  can be driven to vote for candidates who might not support their interests because they are convinced that the opponent is the enemy of Christmas or women or morality or immigrants or any other group or idea that the voter cares about.

Social media platforms like Twitter can be particularly effective in fanning the flames of outrage. People reflexively share items which trigger an emotional response, allowing a meaningless or even false story to spread with alarming velocity.

Recently, we saw the example of the gender neutral Santa controversy. It was almost entirely invented to generate marketing attention, web site clicks, and political traction, and the public ate it up.

An Adversarial Reputation Crisis (ARC) may be driven with outrage tactics, in which the target is tied to a concept that the audience is inclined to become outraged about. The detractor can link the target to an outrageous idea, which psychologically transfers the outrage from the idea to the target. This is unfortunately quite effective when a detractor is trying to take down a target for a relatively minor offense.

When you see an issue that is so outrageous it can’t possibly be true, consider the possibility that it might not be true. Who stands to gain by your outrage? Is your inclination to say “well, that’s just too much!” being manipulated?

Want to learn more about outrage tactics or want to connect with us? We’d love to talk to you. Contact us.