I write about digital strategies and communications — and their intersection with culture, politics, journalism and social activism.

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Taking on the Truth Manglers


      (Image from THX Media Director)

At few times is truth in greater jeopardy than when activists decide to campaign against a company or government policy it perceives is guilty of some wrong or of being wrong-headed. In the interest of client confidentiality I can't give examples from my own experience. But believe me I have compelling personal evidence that some activist campaigners simply won't let a fact get in the way of a "good" campaign.

So what's a company or organization to do?

An article in Ethical Corporation about Asian Pulp and Paper's troubles with its Indonesian forest operations says "For a company in campaigners’ sights, there are essentially three options: fight back with facts, engage your opponents or hide."

Facts don't work because they cower in the presence of a gut-wrenching visual, preferably of a doe-eyed something or other. And hiding does nothing except leave the field to the truth manglers. Engagement is an option sometimes, but only if the activist campaigners are interested in solving problems rather than shouting and posturing.

There is a fourth option. In an article in The Atlantic about the Gawker media world, James Fallows comments "Maybe the answer to a flawed narrative is to change the narrative".

This works for companies as it does for journalism. Companies can "own" their own content on the social web, so there is no reason alternative - truthful -  narratives can't be told convincingly. No reason, that is, other than a willingness to tell a story in the way people "choose (stories) when they have a chance" . . . ones that are visually compelling and use frank, personal and ingenuous language.

If a company, for example, would produce and post a video with as much heart and simplicity as this one by Greenpeace, then the truth of some issues or "problems" might be less in jeopardy.

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