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Never Let the Truth get in the way of a Good Story

August 9, 2011

It started with a post on an obscure blog by an even more obscure company. The article was so salacious that it soon spread like a bushfire across the web and, in the scramble, respected media outlets across the globe jumped on the bandwagon.

The story seemed to confirm what many Internet users have long suspected – if you use Internet Explorer, you’re dumb.

The story was posted on July 28 by AptiQuant. They claimed to have offered free online IQ tests to over a 100,000 people and then plotted the average IQ scores based on the browser on which the test was taken.

The survey results revealed “it comes out pretty clear that Internet Explorer users scored lower than average on the IQ tests. Chrome, Firefox and Safari users had just a teeny bit higher than average IQ scores. And users of Camino, Opera and IE with Chrome Frame had exceptionally higher IQ levels.”

The Sydney Morning Herald’s headline read “Dumb people use Internet Explorer: study“,  CBS News proclaimed  “Internet Explorer users “are kind of stupid,” says study” – even the BBC got into the act.

Amongst this esteemed company were other high profile organisations including CNN, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, The Huffington Post and Forbes.

The only problem is, not one of these organisations checked the facts. The story was a complete fabrication. The company who released the survey, AptiQuant, doesn’t exist.

The whole thing was a hoax.

Admittedly most of these media institutions have corrected the original story however this is an excellent example of how quickly and erroneously a company’s reputation can be tarnished.

It’s the kind of situation that gives PR types nightmares that wake them up in the middle of the night with a cold sweat.

It’s also a situation that can be brought under control very quickly with a detailed disaster management plan and a comprehensive online newsroom in place.

The reality of the current media environment is that both new and traditional media publications are climbing all over each other trying to be first with the news. Now more than ever, the facts are secondary to getting the story out.

Social Media powerhouses like Facebook, LinkedIn and especially Twitter, now play a vital part in journalists jumping the gun. 140 characters or less can be responsible for a media firestorm that engulfs a business in a crisis – a crisis which quite possible has absolutely no truth behind it.

If the results of a fictitious survey, posted on a mysterious blog, conducted by a company that doesn’t exist can be rehashed across the globe, imagine what’s likely to happen if your business becomes embroiled in a similar scandal.

Do you have strategies in place to cope?

Do you have an established online newsroom that can be used to provide a considered response?

An online newsroom will not only provide you with a platform to establish yourself as a credible and trustworthy provider of information during a crisis, it is a vital tool in the day-to-day communication between a business, the media and the wider community.

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