Corporate rumors can be a headache for marketing departments, and potentially be very damaging to the brand if they are not addressed properly. However, this does not always mean the best course of action is to address the rumor directly.
There are a variety of different ways to respond to rumors, which include:
• Ignore the rumor.
• Divert the attention currently on the rumor by sharing other positive corporate news with the media, social media sites and the industry at large.
• Determine if the source of the rumor can be located and addressed independently.
• Address the rumor head on.
The course of action depends entirely on the rumor. You can start to address the challenge by documenting answers to a few critical questions:
• Define the rumor. Is one source saying it or multiple sources (how many and specifically who)? Have any credible sources like the media or industry associations addressed the rumor?
• Are the rumors truly and entirely false?
• Will the rumor hurt the company? If so, what are the different ways the rumor can affect the company?
• Is it an immediate, short-term issue or a serious, long-term issue?
• How is the rumor being spread (word of mouth, social media, media, ads, etc.)?
More often than not it is best to address the rumor and confront the sources. But if taking that course of action simply gives life to the problem or worse, exacerbates it, then it is more prudent to ignore it and counter it with positive outbound communications.
If the rumor is relatively insignificant, then ignoring it may be the best solution.
However, the first step is to play out each scenario and weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks. The time spent researching and thinking strategically about the challenge and the response will be well worth the investment.
Of course, you still have to make a decision about whether or not to respond, but at least you will have foundational support for the decision rather than responding out of fear, a gut feeling or an industry case study.