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May 17, 2021

Corporate public relations: Digital Character Assassination & the importance of reputation management

Healthy public relations serve a dividend purpose when it comes to success and growth of businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers, brands, legal firms, and corporate organizations. In the business world maintaining an excellent public reputation ultimately translates into more acceptance from the public and more business profitability.However, building and maintaining social reputation in this digital era is no easy task. Businesses, freelancers and companies of all sizes are always on the risk of being targeted by rogue ex-employees, competition, troll farms and anonymous entities smearing the public reputation to achieve personal, political, financial or competitive gains.

Businesses & Digital defamation

Entrepreneurs and established businesses operating in different industries and niches are often in the highlights of public criticism brought upon by negative comments, rumors, false information, statements and claims made by unknown digital entities and public defamation groups. Such malicious groups intentionally spread false information and rumors against a particular business, company or individual resulting in irreversible damage to digital reputation and real-life consequences. Recent studies have shown that there is a corporate crisis because of troll farms, hacktivist groups, malicious individuals, and unknown entities actively hunting and targeting professionals, companies and brands globally to fulfil malicious goals. The same study revealed that CEOs are one of the primary targets of digital character assination and there are a diverse range of business consequences resulting from such digital defamation.

Motives behind targeting businesses in public smearing

There can be different motives of such troll farms, and anonymous entities for targeting specific businesses and individuals. It also depends on the capabilities of the digital assassin. Troll farms and hacktivist groups usually have more resources and can target multiple organisations and individuals, whereas, anonymous individuals with limited sources may only target one company or individual. Whatever the case maybe, below are some of the common motives why public smearing against businesses, freelancers and organisations occurs.

Political agendas

Covert digital agencies and even the governments can hire troll groups to plan and execute sophisticated digital campaigns against specific organizations, public business figures, politicians and renowned freelancers. To achieve an upperhand in business or to make political statements governments can sponsor such digital assassination attacks. This is also known as state or government sponsored systematic digital character assassinations.

Forced Business Acquisitions

Competitive organizations can leverage character assassination to defame and halt the business development and growth of the competition. Smearing of the public reputation results in the loss of trust and profits for the business and can even allow the competition to force a merger or a full-fledged business acquisition. A business battling through bad public reputation, makes it less-valued and allows competitors to acquire that business in less market value.

Financial incentives

Many hacktivist groups and troll farms launch public defamation attacks against companies to extort ransome from businesses. In case sensitive data or information of a company is hijacked by such digital assassins, they can use blackmailing tactics by taking the sensitive information or data hostage while asking for money in exchange for not leaking the information.

How character assassination affect businesses?

Multiple online entities making false claims, statements, spreading rumors, and leaking false information can result in smearing the online and public reputation of an organization. Untrue information circulating on the web, and even untrustworthy entities spreading rumors and lies against an organization can result in a range of consequences. Below are some of the implications businesses can face due to public defamation.

Loss of Public Trust & Business

It is widely agreed that building trust can take years and it takes only seconds to lose all the trust and reputation that may have taken years to build. Rumors circulating on the internet can make the customers, investors, and business partners question the trustworthiness of an organization and its values. Lack of trust will ultimately lead to low brand loyalty and acceptance leading to business downfall and loss of profits.

Job losses

Studies have shown that digital character assassination campaigns against CEOs have resulted in CEOs losing their positions and leaving the offices. Same goes for key executives and employees of an organization. Rumors, statements and false information against a key workplace employee can derive criticism from employers and may even result in a job expulsion. An employee removed from a position due to bad public reputation may also find it challenging to find a good job position in other companies.

Disruption in marketing efforts

Any marketing campaigns run by a company can be rendered fruitless if the reputation of the company is being actively attacked by malicious entities on the internet. It will not only force an organization to increase its marketing budget, change strategies but will also decrease the potential benefits and outcome expected from these marketing campaigns.

The importance of reputation management

There is a long list of dangers associated with digital reputation assassination. However, well-informed and educated choices such as hiring reputation management services can help businesses, freelancers and large corporations prevent reputation smearing. There are dedicated companies that provide professional reputation management services to provide complete digital protection against a diverse range of corporate reputation aspects. Some of the benefits that reputation management services can provide include:

Digital reputation monitoring

Dedicated professionals working round the clock monitoring your company’s reputation and engagements online can ensure timely detection, reporting and mitigation of negative comments, statements or posts highlighting untrue information against your organization or professionals. Companies providing reputation management services can stop the spread of lies and rumors to prevent trust loss.

Business & revenue growth

Reputation management allows your organization to increase business acceptability, product or service value which facilitates company’s growth and scalability. Maintaining excellent public relations and reputation ultimately allows organizations to establish better relationships with customers, investors and partners contributing to business success. This increase in reputation will allow the company to get more business and profitability.

Increased Awareness & Loyalty

Reputation management providers facilitate trust and loyalty. Reputation management will allow your business to increase brand awareness and gain loyalty and trust of customers and partners. Having a legion of loyal customers and partners will ensure that your company gets the required support to withstand many challenges and transformations with time.

Cyber reputation smearing is an offense and is punishable under international and national cybersecurity and data protection laws and regulations. Organizations that lack reputation management capabilities usually have to file lawsuits against cyber assassins or websites posting or hosting the offensive information content. Not only does it add to the frustration and expenses of a company, it also requires the targeted organization to go through extensive legal procedures and exhaust valuable time and efforts. A devoted reputation management team overseeing the company’s reputation can potentially prevent such incidents from happening, hence saving the companies from the hassle of legal complications.

Ending thoughts

There are a plethora of real-life consequences associated with digital character assassination. Businesses throughout the globe are becoming more mindful of protecting and managing their social and digital reputation. Reputation management contributes to developing and maintaining solid public relations that administer businesses to grow and develop and avoid cyber assaults in the form of smearing and misinformation.