As a healthcare provider, it’s likely that you took the Hippocratic oath upon graduation from medical school, solemnly vowing to not do any harm unto another. Upholding that promise is likely a cornerstone of how you run your medical practice, and it’s perfectly reasonable to expect others to extend the same courtesy to you.
Unfortunately, not everyone shares your values, and there may come a time that you may find yourself on the receiving end of a smear campaign. The sad truth is that smear campaigns are much more common than you may realize, and it can be very difficult to challenge the hurtful falsehoods spread against you.
Nevertheless, if you’ve found that you and your practice have fallen victim to a smear campaign, you do have some recourse. However, it’s vital that you respond immediately to these shady tactics, as you and your livelihood may be on the line.
What is a Smear Campaign?
Smear campaigns are exactly what they sound like: they are concerted efforts of an individual (or a party of several individuals) to sully your good name through slanderous or libelous words. Oftentimes, they can be caused by a person who may feel as though they have been personally wronged or affronted by you, though their efforts and beliefs are rarely grounded in reality.
Other times, a smear campaign can arise from a competitor. They may have no personal investment in ruining your reputation, but they may feel as though their own practice cannot stand on its own without first tearing yours down. In turn, they believe that they need to target you with erroneous propaganda.
Smear campaigns can take on many shapes and forms, and no two are identical. However, they all do share one thing in common, and that’s the end goal of making people doubt your credibility and cause serious harm to you. Even if the mistruths that they spread are outlandish and incredible, that still may not stop people from believing in them.
Anger and Outrage: Handling Your Emotions
If your practice has been targeted by a smear campaign, it’s perfectly reasonable to get upset by it. After all, you’re only human, and the false allegations can be incredibly hurtful and damaging. With that in mind, you want to make sure to maintain your temper throughout, as any signs of anger or outrage can be used to justify the perpetrator’s words.
One of the biggest issues we face living in a digital era is how many people believe they can get by without outrageous actions under the guise of anonymity. While many people may believe they won’t get caught when running their smear campaign against you, there’s a very high chance that they’ll eventually be discovered.
The good news is that you have rights, and if you find that someone has been targeting you and your practice, you may be able to exercise legal action against them. There are laws in place that can help defend you against libel and slander, allowing you to eventually press charges against those who have tried to defame you.
The Importance of Prompt Action
If you’ve been targeted by a smear campaign, it’s critical that you do not delay in responding to it. The sooner you react, the better the outcome can be for you. By not taking action against the individual or parties who have targeted you, you’re only giving them more ground to continue their attacks.
Immediately after recognizing that you’ve been on the receiving end of a smear campaign, there are a few steps you must take.
- React immediately. Every day that you let the smear campaign continue is another day of permitting them to spread lies about you. Upon discovering that your practice has been targeted, you should immediately take action against them, even if you don’t know who they are yet.
- Respond to the allegations. Some people may argue that you shouldn’t “stoop to their level” and that you should keep quiet. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, you should take to social media to directly address the falsehoods and defend yourself and your practice against them. That said, do not respond to them in anger or fling barbs back at your attackers. Remain calm and present the facts as clearly as possible.
- Focus on the good. One of the best ways to counter negative propaganda against you is countering it with positive news about you and your practice. Take a close look at your practice and all of the good it has done in your community, then consider publishing a press release about it. Even something as simple as requesting positive reviews from your patients can work wonders in rebuilding your reputation.
- Consider reputation management. Trying to counter a smear campaign by yourself can be incredibly difficult, and with your busy schedule, it’s likely you won’t have much time to deal with it without cutting into the time you spend with your patients. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, and turning to a trusted healthcare PR firm can take that burden off your shoulders and help you restore your good name.
- Explore legal recourse. Finally, you may want to look into hiring a lawyer to help you clear your name and seek restitution against those who have harmed your reputation. A smear campaign can deal serious damage to your practice, making it harder for you to earn a living. By speaking to an attorney, you can determine if you are the victim of libel or slander and consider pressing charges against those who have wronged you.
Have You Been the Victim of a Smear Campaign?
Ultimately, how you respond to a smear campaign is your own choice, but it’s important to remember that the last thing you want is to sit idly by while someone trashes your reputation. By being proactive, you can help save your practice from permanent damage and begin the road to recovery from their unwarranted attacks.
Furthermore, a smear campaign doesn’t just harm you, either; it also harms those who are in your care, as well. By taking action against the mistruths from the smear campaign, you can help ensure the longevity of your practice. And in turn, you can continue to deliver the high quality of care to your patients that has always come standard with your practice.