The Internet is a great way to get the word out. Unfortunately, for some companies, the wrong word occasionally gets spread. For instance, Procter & Gamble has been rumored to be associated with the Church of Satan because of a logo that had supposedly contained "666" within it. Though the logo has disappeared from the company's marketing line-up, the rumor hasn't, and can still be found circulating on the Internet.
More recently, a Minneapolis-based coffee company is battling a rumor that its company is linked to terrorists. Caribou Coffee's CEO Michael Coles says the 2-year-old Internet rumor that his company is connected to Islamic terrorists is hurting sales and threatening the business' expansion plans.
The rumor alleges that the company is owned by an Islamic bank that employed Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an outspoken Palestinian supporter. Coles has addressed a small truism in the rumor candidly -- the business is 88% owned by Atlanta-based Crescent Capital, the investment firm arm of the First Islamic Bank of Bahrain, and Qaradawi was an adviser to the bank until the bank severed ties with him in June 2002.
But, his efforts aren't making much headway in killing the rumor online. Furthermore, experts say, the more you address the rumor, the more you're raising awareness of it in the public's eye, which could further hurt a company. Caribou, however, has taken a different tack, creating a campaign to "set the records straight," which Coles believes will help people see "the real truth" about the company.
What would you do? Risk gaining more attention by addressing the rumor publicly, or just let it run it course? I suppose you could go about managing it as you would bad press: supply facts to the media, as Caribou has done in the Chicago Tribune article referenced for this blog (free registration required to access full article); develop useful contacts in the media to handle it; and take the initiative. But how effective would these tactics be on the Internet?