After the US presidential election campaign in 2016 at the latest, we should all be aware that digital opinion making, online smear campaigns and targeted manipulation are no longer science fiction ideas. As digitization progresses, it is becoming increasingly easy to discredit one’s competitors and thus gain access to the top – and this is not only true for politics. Companies, too, increasingly have to deal with the dangers of so-called dark public relations or dark pr. When it comes to digital character assassination, dark PR companies are increasingly focusing on discrediting themselves through outrage.
In general, call-out culture describes a phenomenon in which people are publicly pointed out their erroneous behavior or problematic statements. If, for example, a high-ranking politician makes racist statements, this can be followed by call-out reactions, posts in social networks or classic reporting that publicly pillories his misconduct. Normally, this mechanism can help to sensitize the respective person to current grievances, discrimination or offensive behavior. The goal: the person learns from his mistakes and improves in the future. In the context of Dark PR, however, the Calling-Out is used specifically to harm companies or individuals. The goal here is not to practice objective criticism, but to trigger an avalanche of indignation and thus cause lasting damage to the reputation of the competition.
As a basis for calling-out, Dark PR professionals search the internet for negative information about your company, your employees or customers. For example, has there been a private misstep by your CEO in the past or has your company at some point made borderline statements on a polarizing topic? Dark PR agencies find these weak points and make them public. The misconduct is then transferred to your entire company by framing.
Even if your company, your employees or your customers do not offer Dark PR actors any points of attack, you are not automatically protected against such indignant attacks. By dirty methods, the attackers simply create new (untrue) facts. Honey Trapping, for example, manipulates (high-ranking) employees by means of fake accounts in the Social Web to reveal private information, to exchange pictures that are not completely suitable for children and young people or to express discriminatory opinions. In addition, people in social media can also pretend to be official employees and spread hate and agitation on the net, which will then be associated with your company. Those who have evil in mind can ultimately buy indignation in Dark Net. Even for under 100 dollars you can get negative comments, ratings or posts in the social networks there, as studies show.
So it becomes clear: If you have enough money at your disposal, you can quickly and easily generate indignation and thus harm your competitor in the long run.
In order not to become a victim of such dark PR campaigns, it is worthwhile to invest in prevention and protection measures beforehand. These include, among other things, an audit that shows you potential dangers, sensitization and training of your employees, and a sophisticated plan for emergencies. We are happy to help you with this.
Better safe than sorry.