This is a pre-emptive strike to gain advantage by poisoning the field of play against a position or person. This undermines the authority and solemnity of the negotiation and can be devastating in a well-managed social networking activity.
Gossip or statements made to others can plant the seed of doubt or incompetence. Often, someone carrying out a smear campaign may gossip against another while not naming them – “Oh, I don’t want to say who, I wouldn’t want anyone to treat them differently…” – but will drop enough identifying hints so that there is no doubt of the subject.
As the object of a private smear campaign, you must build your brand by being virtuous and true to your center. What is your truth as far as consistency, reliability, fairness, and work ethic? Stick to the facts, find the truth, document slander, libel, and smears, and take legal action if necessary. Consider employing a public relations firm.