Four Rumor-Control Remedies

Over the years, many well-known brands have found themselves besieged by rumors. In the 1990s, rumor had it that the “K” on Snapple’s packaging stood for “Klan” and that Coca-Cola’s logo was anti-Muslim. Of course, both rumors had no basis in reality—the Snapple “K” stood for “Kosher,” and the Coke logo had absolutely nothing to do with disparaging Islam or any other faith.

But shadowy falsehoods can assault any brand any time. How should your business handle derogatory rumors? Consider the following strategies.

1. Just the Facts Ma’am
Countering the lies with data to the contrary is often the quickest way to sever the association between the brand and the rumor. Before doing this, however, make sure you have hard and incontrovertible proof. In some cases, telling consumers that a rumor is false can reinforce belief in the rumor; they remember the rumor but forget the disconfirming evidence.

2. Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil
Given that denying a rumor can backfire by giving it even more life, consider remaining silent until the rumor dies of its own accord. Remember, not all rumors mentioned on social media sites catch fire and spread. Instead of going into immediate denial mode every time negative whispers crop up, you can choose to monitor rumors closely on the Internet or elsewhere and decide which require intervention and which will simply wither on the vine.

3. Reassociate the Negative with the Positive
How can you contend with a rumor when you lack the evidence to disprove it? For example, what if word around the office is that “Sandy is a slow worker.” You might respond by associating the negative part of the rumor with something positive such as, “Yes, Sandy takes more time to hand in assignments, but that’s because she double-checks the facts, which ultimately saves us all time.” This technique can work to counter rumors about your brand. For example, a brand accused of having variability on the color of the wash of its jeans might instead associate variability with “uniqueness” and “individuality,” which are positive characteristics.

4. Questioning Consumers’ Confidence
Here’s a novel approach: Launch a public relations campaign that simply asks consumers to investigate and examine the rumors themselves. This strategy shifts consumers from passive acceptors to active critics of the rumor, giving them the opportunity to reaffirm their own faith in the brand’s integrity.