By: Brooklyn Wilson (@brookwilson97)
Fake news has been around since the birth of the media and has continued to grow into the powerhouse that it is today. Why? It’s cheap and easy to publish, the media has its own agenda, and our country is more politically polarized than it ever has been, therefore encouraging media outlets to publish news that furthers their own beliefs rather than the truth. The term “fake news” really took off during the 2016 presidential election when President Trump engrained the public’s mind with the phrase.
This now-common trend and belief has kept many PR professionals from getting a good night sleep. The foundation of public relations is using the media to inform the public about a brand or individual through telling a story. People have often trusted information coming from the media over coming from the brand because third party views are more credible and genuine. But with the rise of fake news, people’s trust in the media has continued to decline.
So, what can public relations professionals do to combat the fake news incursion?
Maintain Relationships with Legitimate News Sources
Most established PR professionals already have a solid relationship with credible news sources. Continue to contact those outlets and avoid sending press material to news outlets that are not credible. If you have good relationships with journalists and provide them with all of the information necessary for a story, then there is a less likely chance misinformation about your brand will get published. It’s your job to be available for questions and clarification that a journalists may need, so be responsive and execute good communication with media outlets.
Attribute Your Sources
Whatever you’re writing or publishing, whether it’s a blog post for your website or content on Facebook, make sure you attribute all of your sources. Tell your readers where that information came from and provide links for them to confirm the statements being made. Also, be sure that the sources you are attributing are reliable and credible by fact-checking the information you’re using. This instills confidence in your audience that you are putting out accurate, credible information.
Monitor Your Social Media
Because social media is immediate and spreads like wildfire, make sure to monitor it for misinformation. Set real-time alerts so you can respond immediately to incorrect statements and information relating to your organization. In addition, be sure that any articles or stories you share on social media have been fact-checked and are credible. Even if your organic content is accurate, if what you’re sharing is not then you will lose credibility and trustworthiness with the public.
Transparency in public relations is a fundamental practice for strategy and ethics in the profession. It is also a great way to avoid the consequences of fake news. When you’re transparent with your publics, it gives your brand authenticity and a good-standing reputation. If fake news were to spread about your brand, the public would question its accuracy because you have a history of being open and honest with them. This gives you a leg to stand on while you correct the misinformation being spread.
Fake news has been around for generations, and it isn’t going away any time soon. As a PR professional, it’s important to be aware of this conflict and take steps toward avoiding and correcting misinformation or misleading content.
Brooklyn Wilson is currently a junior at Grand Valley State University studying advertising and public relations, with a minor in Business. She serves as the VP of Public Relations for PRSSA and is an active member of the chapter. Her passion for communication and relationship building, in addition to writing, led her to the PR field . In her free time, you can find Brooklyn watching countless episodes of Fixer Upper and spending time outdoors.