A rumor, can be described as “a series of false accounts of widely reported facts of current affairs circulated by people in authority to influence their followers.” It is an especially destructive form of spreading misinformation, and has the potential to cause vast damage in a business or organization. In business, rumors have a tendency to “sizzle” out of control before they die down and grow wilder. A rumor can have the potential to completely destroy the reputation of an organization, its products, employees, customers, and even its shareholders.
Rumors have an incredible capacity to spread, and for allport it is a common example of how rumors can spread. Allport distinguishes between rumors that are harmful and those which are beneficial. He distinguished the two in his classic article, “The Power of Rumor,” which can be read on the Internet. He defined the harmful rumor as “one that tends to injure people in their community without adequate compensation or just incidental advantage, and that tends to harm the reputation of the group instead of merely creating needless annoyance.”
On the other hand, he defined the beneficial rumor as one that tends to build social ladder, corrects errors, and builds character. Allport found it impossible to categorize a rumor as harmful or beneficial. He explained that sometimes rumors will have both damaging and beneficial effects. For instance, in the past it would have been bad for the business owner and good for the customers to spread rumors about the poor quality of their product or service. However, today, because the Internet has become so popular, the gossip can be spread with such ease that it becomes viral.
Allport’s psychology model provides us with a valuable tool for understanding how rumours may be misused in organizations today. We must learn how to identify when a rumour is being used to manipulate us, influence our behavior, and affect our decision making. The term ” Rumour” has a special significance in marketing. In marketing, rumour is an important factor in building brand loyalty and trust, but this needs to be tempered by accurate assessment of the claims being made.
Festinger distinguishes between two types of Rumours: positive and negative. A positive rumour is a fact which can be accepted without significant distortion. A negative rumour is a false fact that is being deliberately used to influence an individual. The process ofrumour management includes refuting the Rumour, distance, and exit strategies. The concept of Festinger’s psychology can be used to assist in preventing or controlling the use of misinformation.
For example, if you work at a factory and another person says that the factory is moving out of town in six months, this rumor will circulate in your office and you will consider it true. However, this rumour is untrue, and you will probably treat it as such. Rumors are mostly harmful, especially those that target a specific group or individuals. It is important to remember that gossip spreads quickly through word of mouth and tends to become common ground. Once gossip becomes common ground, it can have a substantial effect on the way in which people view one another. By carefully controlling the spread of rumors, you can ensure that your company’s reputation is not damaged.