Combating the Fake News Phenomenon

By June 25, 2018 July 30th, 2019 Public Relations

With all of the fake news in our feeds recently, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to discern between a real and phony story. Although fake news is often associated with politics, surprisingly, companies are also now finding themselves targets of fake news as well. So, as a PR pro, how do you even begin to combat this phenomenon? We’re here to provide you solutions and guidelines, preparing you to respond at a moment’s notice to any threat fake news poses to your company.

The exact definition of fake news is tough to define: false stories, satirical sites, social media memes and even illegitimate media coverage can be uncovered as phony. The problem has many faces, ranging from trolls on Yelp and amateur bloggers that don’t check their facts to your competition posting fake news about your company’s latest (fake) scandal or leaving  phony Glassdoor reviews. In a TED Talk this past year, Buzzfeed investigative reporter Anthony Cormier spoke as one of the journalists trying to combat this phenomenon. He said, “I go to bed every night with a pit in my stomach hoping that I called every source, checked every fact and spelled every name right.” We agree wholeheartedly! Along these lines, below we have some pointers to on how to fight this troubling trend.

Check your facts

Currently, people seem to deeply distrust the press, including PR pros. How can you truly trust a source when big-name new sources have gotten stories so wrong? The answer: don’t blindly trust news sources, do your own legwork and fact check to ensure news is legitimate. Believing a source at face value without digging deeper can ultimately harm your company’s reputation and credibility. Laura Varley, brand journalist at Vertical Leap and author of “Fact-Checking Guide for Content Marketers,” told Visme “Fake news has been a big problem for some time now, and there’re many people out there that’ll just read a post off Facebook without finding an original or secondary source.” This can apply to all types of sources aside from social media, even those seemingly of the highest caliber.

Be prepared for as many scenarios as possible

Even with the best mission statements and value systems, attacks on your company’s character are bound to happen in this day and age. In the event of an attack, you want to have precautions put into place. Even if your company doesn’t have a squeaky-clean record, your PR team can still have an action plan for reputation management. According to Fred Garcia, head of Logos Consulting Group, companies need to write their responses in advance. He terms it “the golden hour of crisis response.” This involves steps such as beginning real-time media monitoring, facing the problem with urgency and having statements ready to go when the crisis ensues. The best way to handle crisis response is to anticipate your company’s potential weak points and then draft statements ahead of time addressing a variety of different scenarios.

Know when NOT to take the bait

People that post fake news about your company typically aren’t your direct customers and are just trying to cause a reaction by the public and by your organization. If they can’t get a reaction they’re likely to move on and target someone else, so you don’t always have to bite the bait! However, if a social media post starts to gain traction amongst essential company stakeholders such as board members, investors, customers,employees or the larger public, you should react. This reaction can include interacting with your stakeholders’ on social media and releasing a statement on your social channels and website to negate the attacks.

Take a closer look at your media monitoring capability

Media monitoring has become increasingly critical over the years as news now happens in real-time and is shared instantly. Organizations need to see if they’re targets in the media by being on top of their story. Best-in-class media monitoring services create up-to-the-minute real-time alerts so companies can be alerted of a PR crisis. It’s also crucial for companies to broaden their searches to ensure they’re reading more generally about issues and have a sense of social media conversations, not just their company’s name mentions. This allows them to be in the know about their competitors and industry as a whole.

With these tips on understanding the impact fake news has on your company, how to efficiently prepare for a phony news crisis and respond in a way that prevents irreversible damage your organization, you’ll be able to successfully combat any fake news that comes your way.
Until next time!
Critical Mention
Jolie Shapiro Picture
Jolie Shapiro

Passionate about all things communications, Jolie found her dream job as a copywriter with Critical Mention, where she’s continuing her passion for writing and editing. With a background working for high-profile clients in the financial, hospitality and technology industries, she’s excited to bring her experience to Critical Mention. When she’s not writing you can find her at music festivals, hiking or snowboarding.

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