Fighting slander with a champion
At the recent NEDMA conference keynote, an audience member asked a very insightful question:
In an age when the power of a single voice can be amplified so loud that it can take down a company or a brand, what recourse do we have?
What a powerful question, and certainly one on the minds of a lot of people. While the speaker's answer - that the wisdom of the crowd is inherently self-policing - has some validity to it, it's probably not an answer that's going to satisfy someone in the corner office.
My take: first, you do need to legitimately not suck. That's the hard part. If what you're doing, what you're creating in the world is worthwhile, valuable, and ethical, then you've got your best long-term insurance against trial by the court of public opinion...
... but that's not enough. What you need on your side are champions. Not athletes, but in the truest medieval sense of the ideal, knights who will step up to battle for your cause. Bear in mind, we're not talking about armed physical combat (but boy, wouldn't that shut some critics up really fast), but having champions who are well-respected members of their community defend you in that court of public opinion.
Recruiting champions is very much a conscious effort. As you do business in your community, look for the folks who are the hubs of your niche. Get their attention and help them understand who you are and what you do, why your business, organization, or personal cause is worthy of their attention. Once you do, support your champions in any way you can. Help promote their causes, what they believe in, what's of benefit to them and their community.
When the time comes - and it will if you're successful - that you need to defend yourself against innuendo or false claims, summon your champions to your side and ask them (usually privately) to help stop the momentum of whatever issue you're facing as long as you're in the right. Don't ever ask someone else to put their reputation on the line for you if you're in the wrong - fix what's wrong instead and own up to it.
If, however, you're facing someone trying their damnedest to execute a smear campaign against you, if you're facing unwarranted criticism or unjustified slander, your champions are your best defense in a court of public opinion. One last tip: the more successful you are, the more champions you'll need in your stable, because there will be that many more people gunning for you.
Now ask yourself this: who are YOUR champions? Who will go to bat for you?
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