Gini Dietrich

The Big Question: How PR Pros Can Fight Fake News

By: Gini Dietrich | April 21, 2017 | 
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The Big Question: Fighting Fake NewsFake news is taking up a lot of our time and our newsfeeds.

Our crisis communications plans now must include helping our clients deal with the consequences of fake news about their companies.

Meanwhile, we’re defending our profession against the assertion that we’re the cause of the current fake news crisis.

Ugh.

One thing we all CAN agree on, however, is the fight against fake news is squarely in the court of PR professionals.

That’s why this week we asked you:

What is one way PR pros can fight fake news?

Here’s what you told us.

Fake News Means Trust, but Verify

Mike Tomlinson summed up the most common response with a meme:

Trust but verify - Ronald Reagan

Alli Williams expands on the need to verify all sources:

PR pros have an opportunity to stand against fake news and, while our efforts may not be absolute in eradicating fake news, it can definitely set a precedent.

One thing I find important as a public relations manager is to check sources and attribute all the information you are giving to journalists.

This sort of transparency give readers peace of mind knowing the information they are getting is credible.

Tips for Conscientious Curation

Paula Kiger says we need to create our own personal assessment checklist for vetting content we plan to share:

Assessing before spreading. Use our own quick checklists and make sure our personal red flags have been cleared before sharing what may be less than reliable.

Nancy Davis shared a few tips to add to your content vetting checklist:

Make sure the news you spread is from a trustworthy website, that photos don’t look altered, and don’t post anything with serious grammar issues, because those are almost always fake.

Seth Gilgus encourages PR pros to get to know common fake news tells:

When it comes to avoiding the entanglement of fake news, a public relations practitioner’s best friend is research.

Familiarize yourself with prolific fake news sources and their verbiage, tactics, and the topics they typically cover to better prepare yourself in the future if you encounter a source you are unsure about.

A good place to begin your research is the Wikipedia listing of fake news sources.

Be the Change We Want to See

Alexis Chateau says the best way to fight back against fake news is for PR pros to refuse to create it on behalf of clients.

No matter how tempting the retainer.

Many public relations experts may not want to admit to it, but a lot of fake news is generated by PR and marketing experts in an effort to sway public opinion.

Thus, the best way to fight fake news is not to produce it.

Before I launched my firm, there was a well-known PR agency I used to write content for, including their news releases.

I received a lot of requests from their content manager to write fake news to build credibility for entrepreneurs; or to sway public opinion on politicians, or even felons who are former businessmen and hoping to get back into the business world.

I never took those assignments, but they kept sending them.

Last year, I cut ties with the content manager. That was up to $800 per month out the window, but… integrity is priceless.

Jonathan Bloom agrees:

If I had to give one way that PR professionals can help fight fake news, it would be: Don’t add to the problem with misleading content just for the sake of a marketing campaign.

Creativity is great and I certainly encourage it, but don’t set out with the intention of fooling anyone. It often only leads to confusion, anger, and grief.

Fake news has escalated so much during the past few years, becoming particularly emotionally-charged and dangerous in the last 12 months, that pranks and stunts can now easily not only be unfunny, but also incredibly tone deaf to the realities of the world that we live in today.

Next Week: Should Agencies Walk Their Talk?

When you’re looking for an agency to handle your company’s social media, how important is it they are active on social media?

Is it enough for an agency to have a great portfolio of client social media work?

Or do you want to see the proof that they believe in the power of social media and use it as part of their own marketing efforts?

Share your thoughts and answer this week’s Big Question:

Should you hire a firm to do social media for your brand that doesn’t do it for its own firm?

You can answer here, in our Slack community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).

And let me incentivize you a bit: If you answer the question and we feature your answer, you get a follow link to your site.

So get to answering!

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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