By Katie Kern, Partner and COO
Fake News has been around for years, and according to a new Quinnipiac University poll, the majority of American voters say they trust the “alternate facts” media more than they trust President Trump. However, the Quinnipiac survey contradicts a recent Emerson College poll which found that 49 percent of U.S. voters believe that the Trump administration is “truthful,” while only 39 percent feel that way about the news media.
With the sudden rise of stories that were blatantly false, somewhat misleading, or partially untrue due to the presidential election, there is uncertainty around how much of an effect it had, and whether we’ve peaked or if there’s more to come. What is not in question are the profound implications fake news poses for the work of public relations professionals. Luckily, Google and Facebook announced they would ban sites that published bogus stories from using their ad services. By attacking the advertising model that supports sites like World News Daily Report and NewsBuzzDaily, they might help slow the viral spread of false, defamatory, and even dangerous stories.
So the question is, how do we keep the PR industry and professionals honest?
Keep contacting legitimate news sources. Continue to only connect with news sources that can be trusted and have an honest reputation. There are plenty on the right, the left, the middle, and areas between the margins that care about accuracy and truthfulness.
Attribute everything. Attribute, attribute and attribute some more. No material from another source should ever be included verbatim, or substantially so, without credit. This includes material from Associated Press reports. We should not, for example, produce news “spots” or other pieces that closely resemble wire service stories. Our writing should be our own. There is no excuse for writing that repeats the wire stories that we use word-for-word, or nearly so.
Fast track untrue stories. Because misinformation can spread quickly on the web, it’s essential that PR use media monitoring services that can send real-time alerts, media experts say. Because of the viral nature of social media, PR must be quick in correcting misinformation when it appears.
Don’t give fake news a life. Do not share or link back to fake news stories or publications unless it’s for purposes of having them banned by your social media account. Also, avoid social media trolls. Most of them are full of anger and misinformation with plenty of time on their hands. Make use of your blocking feature.
Fact-check. The media failed disastrously during the 2016 presidential election. False stories and internet rumors don’t start all at once; they can result from a misperception or inaccuracy that was never corrected, leaving it open to further distortion. It’s crucial for PR professionals to be thorough about the facts of any story we promote, and to hold both clients and journalists accountable when it comes to storytelling and fact-checking.