Do you often hear those incredible stories involving two of your coworkers? Yeah everyone knows the two of them are dating. In fact, she’s already pregnant and she’s thinking about abortion.
Chances are the two specified persons are not involved in anything at all. Office gossip likes to make our everyday life a bit fancier… office becomes a place of lust, envy and power. Face it, your everyday life is boring, and everything started by an innocent “Those two would fit well together” dropped at the coffee machine. The idea seemed original and made sense… when it fell into the right ears. Mr X is a socializer. Mr X (who can also Mrs X) talks to everyone and makes sure information is propagated. Mr X irons the information discrepancy.
Off course information gets twisted, and adapts as memes do, and gets stickier as people hear it and change it.
The semantic fuzziness of language formatted by experience causes people not get the same meaning from the same word (we haven’t experienced words the same way – in France, “liberal” is like an insult…). That’s why you have a natural distortion.
On the internet, you are only one or two links from the original information. So you can get to the original source without useless added thoughts like mine. But if you get to it 24 hours after, then the information is not that fresh any more. Dropping a corporate press release on a rumour one week later is arriving after the war, and the one after the first. People have changed subject already, their attention has shifted, and their opinion made.
You don’t really have a problem to find accurate data, because one hour after an information is released on the internet, it’s discussed, contradicted, developed and finally comes to maturity.
People keep track of that information with their RSS, google homepage, netvibes… but once they get their information formalized from their most trusted sources like techcrunch or mashable, the harm is done.
If you want to be able to act and follow what is happening, you have to belong to the right communities. Follow the right people on twitter, the right forums, where you can see an anecdote develop to an important formalized information. Make your own war room
That’s when you have to act! If you have a ready-made answer, drop it! Have it in the conversation, use your community to gain visibility, and help the information spread, with your version of the facts. You can use social bookmarking such as digg or delicious, and your ideas will be channeled via multiple ways. Try to get visible persons to read it, and react on their blogs, agreeing first, then adding your extra view with a link to your answer and your comment bridging to it.
Creating a place to have all the required experts discussing the issue can be a great place for people to catch up with that conversation and involve them in the process – and make sure everything goes in the right direction- and media will use that as a major source for information.
People -like me- are actually lazy and if they find a source that is trustworthy enough they will tend to use it as a reference for that topic.
Get a press release ready, and send it to the non-experts, so that they can get a first idea, that something is actually going on, and so that they can have an opinion about it. And don’t forget to put the adequate sources so that you can show that what you are saying is backed up. Make their life and yours easier.
Take it easy.
Sometimes, you can’t act as fast as you’d like to, but just try to limit the damage when things are getting way out of hand. A rumour is like a child. It’s better to give them the right education when they’re little so that they behave properly when they leave the house.