How to address and correct a public misconception

by | Jun 18, 2020 | Public Relations

Occasionally, your business will have to deal with a public misconception or misunderstanding. This could be about an incident or problem that negatively affects your reputation, or it could be something broader, like a point of confusion about your industry.

As an example of the former scenario, an angry online review could have your local community up in arms—even if it was based on a misunderstanding. As an example of the latter scenario, the public often views personal injury lawsuits as frivolous,or society as overly litigious, when in reality, personal injury lawsuits are rare and usually justified.

Correcting a misconception isn’t easy, especially if it’s already taken root in the minds of your audience. But with the right PR strategy, you can accomplish this, and improve your reputation in the process.

Understanding the misconception

In order to fight back against a misconception, you have to understand what the misconception is and how it formed in the first place. The more you know here, the more effectively you’ll be able to fight back against it. You’ll know where the idea started, you’ll know the common features of the misconception, and you’ll have a better understanding of how to refute it.

If you already know there’s a misconception in place, you probably won’t have to look far to learn more about it. You can read a handful of social media comments, or have conversations with clients to better understand their position.

Creating core content

From there, your best bet is to create some kind of core content that addresses and refutes the misconception. This content can be part of youronsite content marketing strategy, serving as a blog post or main page of your website, or it could be in the form of a press release, or both. You could also create a shareable piece of content on the matter, like a concise infographic or a short video.

In any case, your content should have the following:

  • An explanation of the misconception. Be direct, and call out the misconception immediately. It’s a good idea to include multiple versions of the misconception, if applicable; for example, you might list multiple conspiracy theories that people have invented in relation to your core product or services. If possible, point out the origins of the misconception, and explain how it became popular.
  • Data and facts to back up your point. Next, you’ll need to refute the misconception, and the best way to do this is with reliable facts and data. Cite high-authority sources, or provide direct evidence to support your claims. Are there government-backed statistics that suggest the misconception is untrue? If you’re relying on personal experience or eyewitness accounts, tread carefully.
  • Opportunities to learn more. The most skeptical and most interested members of your audience will be hungry to learn more about the topic, even if they’re satisfied with your explanation. Provide someextra links to further resources so they can do some follow-up reading. In some cases, these will help educate your audience further. In others, they’ll simply show that you did your homework.

Once you have this piece of core content (or multiple pieces of core content), you can attempt to promote them. Share them on social media, send them out in an email blast, build links to them, and if you want to make an even bigger impact, advertise.

Addressing the misconception directly

Even after creating and sharing your piece of misconception-refuting content, you’re going to encounter people who bring the misconception into conversations—sometimes publicly. When someone makes mention of the misconception on social media, or if they bring it up at your place of business, you’ll need to address the misconception directly.

When this happens, there are a few strategies that will make your response more powerful:

  • Remain calm. Even if it’s frustrating to hear the same misconception over and over, try to remain calm. You’ll look much more professional and will be better equipped to address the situation.
  • Be polite and respectful. This should go without saying, but remain polite and respectful to preserve your reputation—and make your message all that more powerful.
  • Keep it simple, and be direct. Respond to the misconception directly, and keep your explanation as simple as the circumstances will allow.
  • Ask for further questions. If you have the time or the patience for further conversation, ask if the person has any other questions they’d like to clear up. It’s an opportunity for further public education.

You won’t always be able to change the minds of your readers and customers, nor will you always be able to stop a misconception from growing. But with the right tools and ample respect, you can clarify your position and appeal to the people most likely to respond to rational arguments.

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Larry Alton
Larry Alton is a freelance tech and computer writer

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