A whispering campaign or whisper campaign is a method of persuasion in which damaging rumors or innuendo are spread about the target, while the source of the rumors seeks to avoid being detected while spreading them (for example, a political campaign might distribute anonymous flyers attacking the other candidate). It is generally considered unethical in open societies, particularly in matters of public policy.
The speed and anonymity of communication made possible by modern technologies like the Internet has increased public awareness of whisper campaigns and their ability to succeed. This phenomenon has also led to the failure of whisper campaigns, as those seeking to prevent them are able to publicize their existence much more readily than in the past. Whisper campaigns are defended in some circles as an efficient mechanism for underdogs who lack other resources to attack the powerful.
Use in marketing
Alcohol and tobacco companies have used whisper campaigns to promote their products since the early 20th century. Liquor companies have, and in some areas still do, send attractive people into bars to order specific drinks in voices that can be overheard. Other tactics include "buying" drinks, or giving away cigarettes to patrons, without making known that the benefactor is a representative of the company. More recently, companies are also paying bloggers to mention products or causes.
Also, companies can hire employees to post comments on blogs, forums, online encyclopedias, etc. that steer online conversations in desired directions, as a form of astroturfing.