First, let’s look at the definition of a “smear campaign” and then we can try to fully understand and figure out why some people stoop to these levels.
A smear campaign is the dissemination of false information aimed at damaging an individuals or businesses reputation by making accusations and spreading false rumors.
Here is Wikipedia’s definition: A smear campaign, smear tactic or simply smear is a metaphor for activity that can harm an individual or group’s reputation by conflation with a stigmatized group. Sometimes smear is used more generally to include any reputation-damaging activity, including such colloquialisms as mudslinging.”
These types of campaigns are nothing new. We witnessed them first hand, 20 times per day on TV, last year for the presidential election. In 2011, it was confirmed that Facebook employed PR agency Burson-Marsteller to plant stories that smeared rival Google. The planted stories accused Google of having abused user privacy. The ultimate aim of the campaign was to tempt users away from Google and toward Facebook. The campaign ended up blowing up in their face when it came to light that Facebook was behind it. At the end of the day, do you think it was a good idea or worth it for Facebook to use this tactic or take this approach? I would venture to say probably not.
There are employees at companies, who on a daily basis badmouth and spread lies about their competition in an effort to make a sale or garner a new customer. This is a terrible practice and should never be done, no matter how desperate you are for new business. Besides the legal ramifications that should be considered, it’s just a really bad idea.
Related Resource from B2CWebcast: PR Hacking: How Ideas Spread And What Marketers Need to Know
So, what can you do to thwart these bogus smears or reviews posted online?
The first thing to do is nothing. Don’t make any quick, rash, irrational decisions on how to react or respond to a bogus online review or frivolous comment about your company. Believe it or not, sometimes it is better not to respond. By responding, all you are doing is giving the bogus review relevance. Feeling that you have to respond is not always the best approach. Letting it die on the vine is sometimes the best thing to do. If after a few days you decide to respond, always remember to take the high road and don’t stoop to the levels of your competition. Respond with an honest and sincere retort explaining your position in detail.
You should let your business practices and services speak for themselves. Most smart consumers will do their homework and see through the lies and deceit, but it can sometimes be a difficult road to get rid of the trash talker or bogus online reviews posted.
As a consumer, reading a bad online review or listening to a competitor bad mouth their competition should raise a red flag and be a good reason to do your own homework. The first thing I would do is forget about doing business with a company whose sales pitch is nothing more than a negative rant against their competitor. Since the probability of them using their competitor’s service is slim to none, I would be wary about believing anything they tell you. I would also cut them loose right on the spot and move on. Then, spend a few minutes doing your own homework.
In an article I wrote titled, Email List Cleaning Can Be a Dirty Business, I discussed the benefits of doing your homework when selecting a company to clean and validate your email database. No matter what product or service you are searching for, nothing is more important than reading the information on the company’s website, speaking to their sales or customer service people to make sure they sound educated about their own product or service and making sure they are a legitimate company. If 50 people review the company as great and one person posts 5 bad anonymous reviews saying the company stinks, I think you should be able to pick out the bogus reviews and make an educated decision on who to believe. Follow your gut instinct. It will usually guide you along the correct path when deciding which company to choose, for the work you need done. Remember, truth is always on your side and will prevail in the end.