Doves, Hawks & Managing Your Brand's Reputation

There are two distinct ways to approach the world. You can be a hawk, or you can be dove. Doves seek friendship and try to find areas of common interests between disparate groups with competing goals. Hawks can do nothing but attack, and they are constantly looking for enemies that they can define themselves against.

In real life (or business) you have to be able to play both roles. Game theory has shown that the best approach is to always start by being a dove, and when possible parry off (or just ignore) slight attacks. The advantages you achieve by working together with those around you offset any small attacks you may incur by being so open. But, when truly attacked you have no choice but to turn into a hawk. So the best strategy is really a blended one. It's be a dove most of the time, and a hawk only when necessary.

So what does this have to do with interactive marketing? Simple. Imagine your company is being insulted by an aggrieved colleague somewhere online, how should you respond? Well according to game theory it's always best to start by being a dove. Reach out, parry off any insults and listen to their complaint. If it's something that can be resolved, it's always easier to resolve it than to argue.

But, what if that doesn't work? What if the person is so intrinsically angry that reasoning with them isn't an option. Well, then one has to assess the damage that's being incurred. Most people who are upset have very little credibility. Their anger impedes their ability to think rationally. And that's usually quite apparent in their rants. In those cases, it's better to ignore than to argue. But, sometimes you have to respond. In these cases it's usually best to shed as much light on the situation as possible. Does the person attacking have a personal vendetta that's motivating them (ex-employee, ex-vendor, or ex-wife?)? If so, you can undermine their credibility by providing proper context. People tend not to believe the complaints of people motivated by revenge. If they're not credible, then the story won't spread and the damage is contained.

Written by Adam Harrell on July 8, 2009


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Adam Harrell