Sticky Lies & The Speed of Truth

The last few weeks have brought a deluge of examples of how sticky lies can be, especially when unchallenged with great speed. I know, “lies” is a pejorative word, and it would be more politically correct to call them something else – bad facts, bad data, wrong conclusions, myths etc., but at the end of the day, bad data repeated endlessly, even with good motive, becomes a lie. And it damages like a lie, and it sticks like glue and is persistent over days/months/years/decades. What do I mean? Research shows that people tend to believe what they hear first, even when presented later w/ overwhelming evidence that what they heard wasn’t true. Turns out climategate wasn’t really true, that toyota cars don’t really surge out of control, that Al Gore never said he invented the internet, that there are no death panels in the US healthcare bill, and so on. Two columnists take this on today – E.J. Dionne from a political side, and David Carr from a business/journalism POV.

From a communications perspective, the outcome is super clear – the need for speed continues to grow. If we want to protect our brands and reputations from long term damage, we need to be in the same news cycle as the news itself. It’s not enough to rebut claims in a day two (or even later in the same day!) story – we have to be able to respond in that exact cycle, and with all the communications channels we possess. This means building new capacity, new ways of communicating, ensuring data is flowing internally fast enough to craft a response, and so on. It’s monday a.m. and already I’m exhausted thinking about it!

Of course, there are times when silence is the  better course of action. That is another post.

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