Reputation Management versus the Tools of Propaganda

September 24, 2016

Propaganda Film

Green Propaganda
Propaganda film
Image by Gueorgui Tcherednitchenko
La Baule

Leica M4, Summicron 50mm f/2.0, Fujifilm Velvia 100f

Propaganda, as defined by Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell in their book “Propaganda and Persuasion” is “…the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.” When a company is targeted by a negative content campaign the guiding principles of the attack are very much the same as those of any propaganda campaign. To effectively counter one of these attacks it is essential to understand what those principles are and how they work together. Here are a few of the guiding principles of both propaganda and negative content campaigns:

Assertion – Assertion is commonly used in advertising, modern propaganda, and negative content campaigns. Assertion is a statement presented as fact which requires no explanation or factual basis. Statements like “ABC Company provides the worst customer service ever!”, are meant to be believed without any further questions. Often lacking any kind of editorial sophistication, assertions can still incur damage during a campaign.

The Bandwagon – Identified as one of the seven main propaganda techniques by the Institute for Propaganda Search Engine Marketing Analysis in 1938, “Bandwagoning” is used to build the perception that there are masses of likeminded people behind the campaign. Complaints and experiences may be similar to give the impression that the targeted company’s problems are widespread.

Selective Omission – This is information presented that may contain a certain degree of truth with the omission of important facts that run counter to the agenda behind the story. “ABC Company never refunded my money” has a quite a different connotation than “ABC Company never refunded my money because I never asked for a refund.”

Plain Folks – The plain folk’s principle is used to give the impression that the company under attack is somehow mistreating the downtrodden people of the world. “They took the last money we had.” would be an example of the plain folks principle at work. These are often totally fabricated during a negative content campaign, but if there is there is truth behind the story this principle can be combined with “selection omission” to achieve its goals.

Pinpointing – Often combined with “selective omission”, pinpointing is used to simplify a complex issue by taking a narrow view, focusing the negative aspects of a situation while excluding the bulk of the information surrounding the story. By focusing on one or two aspects of a situation the sponsor attempts to define a black and white judgment against the targeted company.

Transfer – Transfer, as used in a negative content campaign, is the attempt to link the targeted SEO company to a different tainted company that may or may not have an association with it. “These guys are just like Enron.” would be an example of the transfer principle in action.

An experienced reputation management company will be very familiar with these principles and how to best combat them. As with any falsehood or misrepresentation, often the best counter attack is simply to address the content with the truth, backed by facts. Call us today at 770-529-2262 or visit Gervais Group at

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