3 Ways Businesses Can Tackle Disinformation Campaigns
We often discuss your company’s image in terms of presenting itself and yourself in the best possible light, talking up your strengths and the benefits of your services. However, what if someone else is actively doing the opposite? While the term “fake news” has been thrown around a lot in recent years, the damage that can be done to even a small business is not to be underestimated.
Let’s go over the concept of disinformation and how it can be used to the detriment of your business—followed, crucially, by how you can fight back against it.
Disinformation, fake news… whatever you want to call it, it has certainly entered the public discourse in recent years. I’m confident that you’re familiar with it already, but disinformation can be summed up as the intentional spread of misinformation to mislead or manipulate.
That’s right, disinformation and misinformation are two related, but distinct things. Misinformation is the thing itself—an untrue statement—while disinformation is the intentional spread of it. The key here is the intent… misinformation isn’t inherently malicious. Someone could simply be misinformed. Disinformation, on the other hand, is intentional and resultantly quite dangerous.
Despite this, there has been little discussion about how disinformation can play a role as a malicious threat to businesses specifically.
In our data and information-centric society, disinformation can be a very powerful weapon. Content is available in all shapes and formats, for and against every conceivable stance and belief. Heck, what you’re reading right now is an example of content… but, unlike what we share with you through this blog, not all content is good and trustworthy.
How Much Can Disinformation Really Impact Me and My Business?
You might be thinking, “Sure, disinformation is probably a big problem for the big brands, the corporations and such, but do I really have to worry about it?”
While it may not be on the same scale as it is for these large corporations, disinformation can easily impact an SMB. How so? There are a few ways, unfortunately. For instance, consider the possibility of a smear campaign on social media. Particularly in the case of SMBs, a bad enough rumor could pull the curtain on the business.
Let’s examine a hypothetical scenario to review how such a campaign might impact a small business—in this case, we’ll assume that this business is a small managed service provider.
Disinformation in Action
ACME MSP operates in Smalltown, providing its services to the other organizations that function there. Their success record is pretty impressive, save for one unhappy former client that misunderstood the agreement and has held a grudge ever since.
If this client was so inclined, they could use their own social media to start a disinformation campaign. Maybe, they claim, ACME MSP steals data as they perform their services.
Now, even though that is a lie, the damage has been done. For instance, if a few current clients are connected to the unhappy client on social media, they’ll now have that thought in their mind whenever they do business with ACME MSP. There’s a good chance that these clients may eventually take their business elsewhere… just in case, you know? That’s also not to mention the other business owners associated with the unhappy former client who will now no longer consider ACME MSP as an option, plus all the other people that happen to be connected to our unhappy former client and start repeating what was said, giving the lie more reach.
How Can a Business Fight Back Against Disinformation?
Well, as a first step, it pays to be cognizant of the possibility that someone might try to spread falsehoods about your business… and how damaging they can even be to your cybersecurity.
According to EU DisinfoLab, a non-governmental organization that researches disinformation impacting the EU and its states and institutions, there are four places where disinformation and cybersecurity converge (and not in a good way):
- Terrain, or the networks that both disinformation and cybersecurity threats use to propagate.
- Tactics, or how both share the same means of dispersal and dissemination.
- Targets, or who it is that are commonly assaulted by both cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns.
- Temptations, or in other words, the financial windfall that a successful disinformation campaign or cyberattack can bring.
If this sounds an awful lot like phishing to you, you’d be right. Phishing and disinformation are closely intertwined. However, disinformation can and is often used to damage a business externally, as we discussed above. Fighting back will take an organized effort—much like any disaster recovery will—and therefore needs a dedicated plan.
First, Being Prepared to Deal With Disinformation Requires Some Planning
Whether or not you’re currently being impacted by disinformation, you need to prepare yourself to deal with it promptly. Creating a strategy to approach disinformation is an important step to take to prevent it from impacting you unduly, and everyone in the business needs to have a part in this strategy. It also helps to monitor the conversations on social media happening about your business to catch disinformation as it is being spread… which brings us to the next point.
Second, Be Ready to Address This Information
When you spot misinformation being shared online, you need to put a stop to it with determination. When you see your brand being besmirched, you need to engage with the misinformation in a way that is both professional and cordial.
Rather than getting into an argument with the person posting it, address the rest of your audience through your brand’s social media accounts. Engaging with your audience in this way will help you correct the misinformation that is being shared.
Simultaneously, you should also do everything you can to reach out to the person spreading this misinformation—publicly, on the comments they are making, before taking the conversation private. That way, you can potentially address whatever problem they experienced and, ideally, convince them to remove their comment. If not, you need to double-down on addressing the misinformation in public.
Third, Request that the Platform Take Down the Misinformation
If all else fails, you can always reach out to the platform where the misinformation is being shared as your brand and request that it be removed.
Disinformation is a Legitimate Cybersecurity Threat that Marketing Can Address
Disinformation can create significant damage to your business, so it is important that you are prepared to address it and remove any teeth it has. We can help. Give us a call and ask about the marketing campaigns we can help create and execute for your business.