That an unsubstantiated rumour about a brand, company – or indeed person – can spread like wildfire over the web is old news. However, a new survey suggests firms may have more control over such damaging hearsay than they might expect.

The study, from public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, confirms that internet opinion leaders are prone to spreading unconfirmed gossip over the net. Some 81% of this group – dubbed ‘e-fluentials’ – admit forwarding such rumours to family, friends or colleagues in the last twelve months.

Significantly, however, 86% try to verify hearsay from news websites and 73% look for confirmation from the site of the company concerned. Such findings, Burson claims, show a rumour can be controlled before it gets out of hand.

“This is encouraging news for companies,” declared director of knowledge development Idil Cakim. “[They] have the ability to control the information about their enterprises, and respond to individuals’ questions.”

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff