Public Relations in a ‘Fake News’ Era
December 2, 2016
It’s everywhere in the news right now—fake news sites publishing false information on the Internet. As the number of news sources skyrockets in the digital age, we are seeing more and more examples of opinion, propaganda, and sometimes even outright false information, being passed off as thoroughly vetted news. The amount of information available to us on the Internet will only continue to grow, often leaving it to the reader to determine myth from fact.
More and more Americans receive their news from social media. This is where the line between fact and fiction blurs the most. Social media sites aggregate news from many sources, and not all of those sources are thoroughly vetted.
In a new media landscape where the lines between fact and fiction can be so blurry, how do brands and organizations make sure they are getting their story out accurately and effectively?
- Make sure your news is told by credible sources such as the major daily newspapers in your target areas and well-known national media outlets like The New York Times or the Washington Post. These outlets gather and report information through professional journalists who check facts and rely on credible sources.
- Gather the facts. Take the time to gather all the facts a reporter would need to accurately tell your story, including the venerable five W’s (who, what, when, where and why). Make sure you provide the reporter with accurate sources to interview, such as a high-level executive or an expert in a particular field.
- Identify a spokesperson. Identify a person in the organization who can speak on behalf of the company. Having one designated spokesperson will make it easier to maintain a consistent message.
- Major news or announcements should never be “leaked” on social media. Sharing important news on social media is like playing telephone. It’s great to share your news, but the facts can get lost along the way. Would it be great for your content to go viral on social media? Sure, but If you want a story to go viral, it’s best to start by making sure your content originates from a credible source. Reporters will thank you for the recognition and when the story is shared, the facts won’t get lost.
Despite a proliferation of fake news sites, there are still credible journalists we can rely on to accurately tell stories. If you’re uncertain about a specific news source, The Society of Professional Journalists outlines a code of ethics that defines reliable journalism: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp
Katherine “Kat” Harris