Rumours, Half Truths, Surprising Facts – Every Brand and Company in the world is surrounded by them. Most don’t know how to deal with them, and end up behaving like an Ostrich – which means you have dirt on your face, and you cannot fly.

The internet makes the situation worse (and Neil French will vouch for that) because these rumors, half truths and surprising facts will spread via forums, bloggers, and search engines to name just a few – across the universe. And like Chinese whispers, they will become more and more damaging if not stopped and dealt with on time.

I call this an Online Verbalanche (remember you read it and heard the phrase here first!).

Of course you have PR firms to manage your reputation tackle any verbalanche coming your way. But spotting a verbalanche is the easy part, tackling it is difficult. Remember Kryptonite?

But we don’t really need examples – I think every decent PR professional, Brand Manager, and company chief knows the risks we face.

The point is how do we go about protecting ourselves from verbalanches? What are the simple rules to follow?

Sun Microsystem’s CEO & President – Jonathan Schwartz sets a shining example of what to do and how to do it. I haven’t come across a better example than this post of his regarding Sun’s deal with Microsoft. Sun and Microsoft?!?

Yes, the news surprised a lot of people. And rather than let the ignorance around the issue turn into an uncontrollable verbalanche, Jonathan Schwartz decided to write about it on his blog.

The advantage of this is three fold:

    1. He clarifies his and Sun’s stand and perspective on the issue.
    2. Relevant people read his blog every day, and those who don’t will come here to find out more about what they’ve heard.
    3. His blog feeds search engines – so if you are surprised by the issue and start searching the net for answers – Google > sun+microsoft = Jonathan Schwartz’s blog at #8 out of about 214,000,000 results! Candid explanations and behind the scenes thoughts.

Everyone is satisfied. And no matter where in the world you are, if you want to know more about the behind-the-scenes at Sun, you’ll get most of the answers here – in 11 languages! Talk of CRM…

So here’s a brief summary for tackling online verbalanches.

  1. Be proactive, not reactive – Don’t set up blogs overnight to tackle issues. Build one up slowly with candid everyday information that adds value to reader’s lives. This will help build credibility over time.
  2. Choose the person with the most charisma and stature in your organisation – but ensure the writing and style matches his or hers (even if you have ghost writers).
  3. Keep your ear to the ground – about audience concerns, issues and anything that’s relevant in your world. Get all the facts before you respond or speak out.
  4. Be clear and be firm – If you’re saying something, make sure you are focussed and clear about what it is you are trying to say. There’s nothing more damaging that an obtuse answer and an unclear clarification – remember the stink of bullshit spreads for miles!
  5. Be Responsive and Respectful to your readers/commenters – If they’ve taken the trouble to read or comment on what you’ve said, be courteous even if they make you uncomfortable. They’re the people who will spread the word about you further – good or bad, depends on you.

Net-net, like all waves in life – if you think and act smart, you can ride the online verbalanche, and use it to your advantage.

If you missed the link above, here it is again.


  1. Hi, I am doing MBA from IMI , New Delhi and have found a common hobby with you..which is related to PR and Advertising and Integrated marketing as whole…”You call it po-tato i call it pota-to” ….they all mean similar things i think No offense its a personal all combines to make a package…

    I also am doing a subject on advertising where in we use the DAGMAR and KISS approaches to evaluate different Ad-campaigns and analyse the look-touch-feel or vise versa approach that will it result into final sales….etc…

    Ads like Vodafone-Hutch are a tad bit confusing and sometimes look just hurried and unprofessional…

    I really like the really entails your hard work and pool of knowledge in the area of PR…

    Well you can only say that this is a nice and very informative Blog….

  2. Hi,

    Good blog to read….read a couple of posts today…really liked them….looking forward to reading other posts when i have enough time….Please continue the good work…

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