Reputation Management

Prepare yourself for this article; it is a bit intense. It’s a subject that all religions experience. Whole races of people suffer from it. The criminals and drug dealers kill each other because of it.  Intelligence agencies live by it.  Entire countries, governments, police chiefs, business owners, social service agencies, politicians get tied up defending themselves against this.  And many have died in war because of it.  Those are heavy statements.  I know.

And those guilty of it are not going to like me for saying it. But here it comes:

Some people are very good at taking something good and with the stroke of a pen, or as in modern times, through a computer keyboard, make it sound bad.  It’s seems to be an art that actually gets studied and applied.  This will make sense to you as I explain more.

A writer could start a chain of articles in newspapers or weblogs, “SCANDAL AT BILLY AARON’S COFFEE SHOP, MEN WATCHED AS GIRL’S NAKED FLESH BLISTERED.  Anne screamed in agony while no less than five men watched the scalding coffee burn into her bare legs.  Where was the administration?  At BILLY AARON’S COFFEE SHOP on Front Street, there is no daytime security.…”

However, upon inspection of the facts one might find a female did come into Billy Aaron’s Coffee Shop and order coffee.  She wore a skirt (not uncommon in the western world) and her legs were bare.  When sitting down she accidentally tipped her coffee cup onto her lap and she did scream in pain from hot coffee scalding her bare legs.  Some customers there that day were men.  They saw it happen.   So it’s all true — well somewhat true; which makes a libel suit more difficult.

And to add salt to the reputation wound the writer doesn’t mention that the coffee at Billy Aaron’s really is one of the best in town.  He doesn’t mention the fantastic service reviews that Billy Aaron’s Coffee Shop gets from regular customers, the 100% pass of all health and safety inspections, etc.

Then a week or two later, the same Mr Writer writes, “NEAR DEATH AT BILLY AARON’S COFFEE SHOP, MAN CHOKED, ALMOST DIED. A man at Billy Aaron’s Coffee Shop couldn’t stop choking as he coughed up the potentially lethal coffee at BILLY AARON’S COFFEE SHOP on Front Street.”  “There was no evidence of staff administering help…. some said the man was a coffee addict, that’s why he went there… and criminals sometimes meet there….” (all invented but too petty for a libel suit).

The fact is, it is not necessarily uncommon that a person might inhale while drinking something and thus cough repeatedly and might even almost pass out.  It has happened to me a couple of times in my life. I suppose any hot coffee is potentially lethal – it’s hot and it’s coffee.  It is quite probable that staff in many coffee shops would not know what to do with a customer coughing his brains out, gasping for air.

And then Mr Writer says he is doing this “to inform the public of what goes on at Billy Aaron’s Coffee Shop” – “it’s his public service to humanity.” Mr Writer could also write “…hundreds have called me since with their own concerns which will be published soon…”  Unlikely that 100s have called him but you’d be surprised by how many people say general statements like that and no one questions it.

The truth is that organization may make a mistake sometimes but actually its individuals within the organization that make mistakes or misinterpret company policy, or their religious text, or Mr X at a moment of weakness or after a few drinks is seen kissing Mrs Y, etc.

So any group can be open to criticism at one time or another and writers will take this and run stories about it. And the bigger or more longevity of that group, the more individual faults one could dig up out of its history – if finding fault is their only game.

(I started reading the Muslim Qur’an because unbelievable lies out there did not match the lifestyle of my Muslims friends in the Greater Toronto Area.  I decided to look for myself – what better way than to get my own Quran and a good dictionary and study it first hand, and only then get additional clarification from teachers of the faith, never from outside “experts”.  Again, think for yourself, study the true source, don’t trust opinions.)

What is important when judging a group of any type is the whole product, and not just one independent product but how many good products over time such as how many cars they sold which lasted for how many years; how many valid arrests the police made and how much damage they made to the town’s crystal meth trafficking ring. And how many lives were saved in the local hospital; or on the contrary, how many deaths produced from the latest drug put out — how many OxyContin addictions are there now.

Or in the local charity — the volume of happy members in relation to a couple of unfortunate upset ones – because sadly there seems to be truth to the statement “you cannot please everyone”.  So one has to look for its good works, how many good works, details its service, if it had a bad spell, is it better now? See its actual mission statement, their website of services, successes, how many, when, etc.  (And if you are that local charity, and you are doing good, its your job to make that known, make that info available.)

Now Mr. Billy Aaron from Billy Aaron’s Coffee Shop could ask, “Mr Writer, why is it that you never mentioned in your nice and somewhat truthful article here that the other 40 people who were in the coffee shop that day thoroughly enjoyed the coffee and service, come back often, like to bring friends….” Or, “You Mr Writer never even noticed that we at Billy Aaron’s Coffee Shop survey our customers and have mountains of evidence of good service and that people love our coffee!”

Mr Writer could answer back and say, “Listen, I do not like the coffee at Billy Aaron’s Coffee Shop… it’s poison…those surveys you talk of were never verified by the authorities…I think everyone should know how bad your coffee is…but maybe if you were to pay me enough $$, I might change my — (oh I didn’t say that) … well watch for the next article I put out!”

And then Bill might count up his earnings and look for a lawyer he could afford to pay, or hire a Reputation Management firm.

Meanwhile a potential customer types in “Billy Aaron’s Coffee Shop” in Google search or Bing search engine, etc and up pops 2 more nasty articles, carefully worded to make libel accusations difficult, but also tailored to make that customer doubt the validity of Billy Aaron’s Coffee Shop.

Sometimes the Writer is hired by competitors (which can happen in politics and big business or international banking to slant human beliefs); sometimes it’s simply a prejudice or jealousy behind it. In the case of journalism, it’s often for sensationalism to sell a story or to become popular in a field (although it can also make the writer unpopular but not every writer or TV reporter thinks that way – and whether or not the show gets viewers is usually the priority, not necessarily the real truth clearly communicated for the good of all).

This concept of spreading inaccurate ideas is not new at all in the world; it’s hundreds of years old.  In the criminal world, hit men get hired to kill based on rumors (false) passed on to their gang leader.  An “organized crime” investigative reporter once told me about a biker who killed the wrong man because he had the wrong spelling of his name – humans at that level make incredible mistakes and people take advantage of this by feeding slightly wrong information to them.  An ex-prison inmate told me of beatings and prison warfare based entirely upon one person spreading crazy, half-truths and altered facts amongst the others.  It’s not just criminals that will believe lies or twisted facts; the perpetrators are sometimes very smooth and convincing.

But very fortunately many people are quite bright, seasoned with life and they have learned to look for themselves in this highly competitive world; to verify facts personally where possible; to judge from a broad perspective rather than a rumor or opinion; so as to get what they need and want for their money, or vote for the right political candidate or board member, to think for themselves on any subject. They succeed better than others. They reach star-high goals, being capable of looking through the smog around them. Because when you get down to real life, you do not want to miss out on that really good cup of coffee.

The world can be cruel.  It’s why the good guys have to be cleaning up the mess with education reform, drug rehab, criminal reform, human rights programs, etc.

This article is to help maintain the sanity of those who ARE good.

By Brad M

One Response to Reputation Management

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