Propaganda, what is it?
World English Dictionary defines it as the organized dissemination of information, allegations, etc. to assist or damage the cause of a government, movement, etc.
To which we can further assert, businesses and individuals. And this writing is geared toward individuals and to a smaller extent smaller, local businesses. The whole web of propaganda on a worldwide scale can be pretty complex and would take a book to write about. And there are plenty of books if you google it.
By it's definition, propaganda is not necessarily a bad thing when it is assisting someone (provided that someone isn't bad). But for today's journal entry I am referring to propaganda as the negative thing that people can do against one another for whatever nefarious reasons.
Making enemies is often easier than making friends. You could do not an ounce of wrong, but it may be perceived as wrong by people with darker motivations or likewise by any nutjob. If you think you will go through life without being unfairly criticized, you are wrong.
“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” -Bill Cosby
This photo has NOTHING to do with this writing. It is sort of an obligatory photo to break up the text. Sorry, don't have many photos that would suffice for this subject.
So what can you do about someone who is slandering you?
The wrong thing to do, completely and wholly, is nothing.
People talk and talk and the mob mentality manifests and it appears people will only be happy when you are shoved off a cliff or put on a stake and burned. In other words, if you don't respond you allow people to invent whatever they want. You took a pack of bubble gum but because you didn't respond and clean up the PR, the conversation has escalated to you being an international thief or child murderer. Really the mob mentality can get that crazy. Seen it, felt it.
But acting in haste can often just as well play into the falsehoods and seem to give such slanderous remarks an air of credibility. You don't want to play into that trap and shoot your own foot. Therefore you have to put your emotional instinct to defend yourself aside for the moment. It can be tough, experiencing what you perceive as an injustice or unfairness, when someone is putting forth a lie. But patience please and let's approach things intelligently and with order.
Of course, I will assume that you are not in the wrong. If a legitimate complaint is being made on public channels about your service or conduct then you should do everything to handle it (make amends, etc) and you should have firm policies which prevent it and make these known as part of the PR cleanup. That's part of business. That's what quality control and assurance is all about. That's what follow-up is all about. A person can often times handle upsets long before they arrive in a public arena. You've got to try to remain sane and have some empathy about the other person. So handling a person who is upset long before that upset boils over is always the best practice (even though it is not always a feasible proposition).
But what about someone who is being insane and has no grounds or basis for their actions (attacks)? What about the person who doesn't like you? What about running into a sociopath? There are plenty of dangerous and insane people and we often don't see them until they are right next to us. This is for those situations where you have been honest, have delivered a good product and still find yourself on the end of such attacks.
Here is an excellent example of a photographer being bullied and having been the effect of a sociopath.
The invention of contracts helps to safeguard against such people. Contracts seek to hold such people in check from spewing their misery upon you. But even with these legal documents one can still suffer the effect of negative propaganda. As the case is in the above link, the photographer did a perfectly acceptable job with his photography, but failed to get a contract. If you fail to use contracts you are operating at risk. It's only a matter of time before you run into a sociopath, for while they are few and far between, they do exist.
As I said earlier, doing nothing and remaining silent as the person spits their venom across your relations, contacts, social media and business pages is not the correct action. You've got to respond. But you've got to respond sanely so that you don't feed into the propaganda and look crazy or otherwise give it any credit. Flat out denial is also folly. A fast and blatant denial is often coupled with the guilty (how many times have you seen some government spokesperson utter a public statement that you knew was complete shit? It seems to happen more and more these days which is why outright denials are synonymous with government (and big corporation) lies. But you want to be a little more effective than that.
So if someone says, "Joe Photographer touches his models" you can come back with something along the lines of, "Yes, sometimes I ask to move an arm to make the pose exactly how I want it, always with permission. I have many reviews from my past models stating my professional conduct with them." This would be coupled with the other person's negative communication, and you have a link to your reviews. In other words, counter what was being put forth with a firm explanation backed up with lots of evidence to support your version. In turn you challenge the credibility of your attacker.
As a side note, always publish your positive press and reviews (starting yesterday) which will make it harder for people to sling mud in your direction (at least the kind that sticks). Just make sure any positives are true, accurate and not embellished. The whole world turns on public relations. Just watch a politician speak if you don't know what I mean. Every statement by the US President is PR, especially at election time.
I've known exactly what it is like to be ostracized from a group, personally and with others, and to mistakenly feed the flames of false opinion by actions not thought out. There's a ton of ways that character assassination can wreak havoc on a person's liveliness, income and reputation. And there is no one that I have ever met who is all saintly and without imperfection.
One method that some malicious people using half their brain can employ, is to utter their falsehoods along with truths. This is very tough for some people to see through especially anyone who isn't privy to all of the information. Publish a book in Australia on a person and make 99% fact and add one lie that could possibly discredit that person elsewhere. These tactics are used all the time and many media outlets are happy to push it. But again, we're not targeting multi-national corporations with this writing. We're taking a look at you in your home town, running your small business. Knowing about this can help save you misery, headache and possible ruin.
Destroy the people's confidence in a particular business and people will no longer go there, especially when given an alternative.
So, embellish the good, discredit the bad. Provide with tact, proofs and any supporting evidence. Turn the light back, upon the person spreading the disinformation. Sometimes these people are just unhappy people with an axe to grind with anyone and sometimes these people are on the take from a rival company or competitor. Most of the time they are hiding something, if you know how to find out what, then do so. This is where hiring a researcher
can come in handy.
Just remember though that if you brought on a bad situation through crappy service or a crappy product then you can apply these steps as well.
So to recap, this is what I would do:
1) Discover definitively what is being said that is untrue.
2) Discover if the person who said this is merely forwarding this untruth or is the originator of the untruth.
3) Discover the source of the untruth.
4) Discredit the source of the untruth with the truth, spoken from safe and respectable channels. This here is also where getting other to go to bat for you might work, and if they are respected and/or opinion leaders in your given field, all the better.
5) Concurrently and if possible before anything ever takes place, safeguard your image and relationships. Make your accomplishments, good deeds, and favorable reviews, publicized.
6) Always use contracts, these can serve as legal muzzles and dissuade many but the few.
7) Always be honest and ethical, don't invite people to take advantage of abusing your name by being involved in unethical or nefarious actions.
8) Always seek to resolve upsets long before they hit a public arena.
9) Never remain silent in the face of public ridicule or attack, but neither speak in haste or with absolutism.
10) Continue to produce good products and make these well known. This is key.
Good luck. Do well.