How to respond to a ‘digital assassination’

Panelists at the IABC conference address a growing problem: Dealing with an online crisis that crashes stock value and draws unwanted media attention.

Suppose you work for a beauty supply company called Glamour Global Group in Gloucester, Mass., a 90-year-old firm known for its Fountain of Youth facial cream.

One morning a blogger reports that your product causes cancer, posting a gruesome picture of a supposedly affected face. The Internet erupts.

How do you respond?

The what-if scenario was laid out by Richard Torrenzano of The Torrenzano Group, a reputation management firm, at the International Association of Business Communicators’ world conference in New York Monday. It was part of his presentation on “digital assassination.”

Glamour Global was fictional, but the specifics were drawn from real cases, Torrenzano said. To drive the point home, he had a panel—including a former CEO, a communications executive, a lawyer, journalists, and others—role-play how they would deal with the wildfire while scrambling to find out if there was any truth to the report.

Journalists from Reuters, Crain’s New York Business, and The New York Times described pressures they face to crank out a story immediately for the Internet. A portfolio manager from Morgan Stanley described her thinking as the stock plunged.

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