How PR pros can counter fake news

18.06.19

For a few years now, we’ve all heard the term ‘fake news’ being bandied about. Yet how often do we consider its implications in as far as misinformation is concerned? It’s not just a journalism problem; this scourge profoundly affects PR pros, too.

Fake news is not new. People have gone from buying sensational tabloids from the newsagent’s shop to sharing fake news on social media. The public’s appetite for scandal and sensational news is not going away.
This misinformation phenomenon seems to fool even experienced news outlets. It’s therefore important to take the time to plan for how to fight back if your brand or manager becomes its next target. The assault on truth is a major issue for all communicators, and finding ways to counter it should be a priority for every PR pro.
Here’s how you can quench an online firestorm of fake news and safeguard your business.

Know what’s out there

Stamping out misinformation or fake news before it goes viral requires early notice and the ability to respond swiftly.
Organisations seeking to protect their brand image should set up an online monitoring program. Media monitoring tools are no longer just for data collection. They also ensure that misinformation or inappropriate mentions are noticed early and dealt with at full tilt. Sharing media monitoring reports regularly with clients will assist in educating them about the relevance of and imperative need for media monitoring tools as elements of their overall PR program to counter fake news.

Create a fake news response plan

As you would with any other crisis plan, work with your communications team to document the tactics you’ll employ when it happens. Think through different scenarios; everything from bad reviews based on fake news to erroneous attacks on your company executives.
Identify what the escalation points are in each scenario, who is responsible for owning the response and how you will communicate. Keep an emphasis on speed.
Involve your compliance teams in the planning process. Ensure they’re in agreement with your plan and will make themselves available for quick reviews or consultation. Having a fake news response protocol in place will allow for a proper and timely response if and when the time comes.
One thing though, avoid creating canned generic responses to use on social media. It can come across as too staged if your social media channels start filling up with generic responses.

Identify allies that will defend your brand

Your best fake news crisis strategy starts before a crisis happens, by building a strong community around your brand.
When you have a community of brand advocates, they’ll help you combat the fake news. They’ll even respond and debunk these sorts of pieces when they see them shared on social media. Third-party supporters can be seen as more trusted messengers than leaders or other representatives of the organisation under fire.
Similarly, now is the time to build relationships with high-profile journalists and influencers. Along with your brand ambassadors, these are the people who will help you when your competitor decides to take you down by creating fake news.
There’s no way to anticipate your brand being the target of a fake news attack. By having a documented plan and defined response team in place, you increase your chances of getting through it with minimal damage.
The bottom line
Fake news is our new reality and addressing it should be part of any comprehensive PR or crisis management plan. These three strategies should be your jumping off point, but don’t stop here. Fake news is an ongoing charging beast, so keep an eye out for more articles, talks and blogs that shed more light on the phenomenon.
Unfortunately, no one knows who will be the next victim.
Now that you know how to counter misinformation, it’s time to start building relationships with high-profile journalists. Did you know that our MediaHQ database holds over 6,000 media contacts? Click here for more information or call Gaye on (01) 2541845