How to fight back against fake news and protect your brand’s integrity?



Fake news – a term which has been used countless times over the past year since the US Presidential elections during which questionable media sources flourished.

Fake news can be defined as unsubstantiated stories or media sources. Add to that, the term post-truth, chosen as Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in 2016, which is defined as an adjective ‘relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’ and you could say the public relations industry has a challenge on its hands.

As a profession that works very closely with journalists, it is not easy to accept the fact that fake news can sometimes have greater power than respectable media sources. Moreover, fake news weakens the public’s trust in the media in general, which impacts all who work in PR. If the public does not believe the media, what benefits are gained from placing clients in the media? Distrust leads to worthlessness.

Therefore, how do PR professionals do their job when faced with fake news? What can we do to fight back?

First of all, we mustn’t panic. PR professionals have long struggled with problem of rumors or pure lies that circulate about the clients or brands we represent. Even though fake news has become a hot topic, it should not change the fundamental approach of our business. Stories, whether truthful or not, can go viral, and once that has happened they are difficult to stop. Luckily, we are used to dealing with problems and crises, and we should use exactly the same approach when fake news threatens the reputation of our clients or our own businesses.

Here are some practical ways in which PR professionals can deal with fake news on a daily basis:

  • Build a fan base – nurturing a community of fans can help your brand in many ways. One of its main advantages is that if you work on your fan base constantly, your fans will be there for you when you need them. Should an item of fake news rear its ugly head, you will already have people who will stand up for you and speak in your favor. It can sometimes backfire when a brand tries to defend itself, but when fans stand up for the brand, the defense becomes much more credible.
  • Plan for a worst-case scenario before it occurs – planning is key in the fight against fake news, as it is for any crisis. Create the scenario of fake news about your brand and include it in your crisis plan. Be prepared to use social media against fake news and to influence public opinion in your favor. Use media tracking platforms that can help you track your brand on social networks so you can react immediately if something happens.
  • Check the facts and confirm them – PR professionals are already aware of the importance of checking and confirming the facts. Our approach to any kind of announcement should always be the same – do not make any claims you cannot back up.
  • Work with credible media and journalists – even though there are far more unreliable media than ever before, there are still some which can be trusted. Ensure you have the cooperation of journalists and media, who do have a good reputation and on whom you can rely on.
  • Encourage the public to check the claims made – to share only content from sources they can trust. Whenever possible, encourage the public to think before they share a news item and make sure you follow the same logic too.

By sticking to high standards and by preparing for the worst ahead of time, we can avoid becoming part of the fake news epidemic and help stop fake stories – both of which will also help protect the credibility of our profession.



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