The topic of fake news, something few people had a strong opinion on 12 months ago, has rattled the media industry – and for good reason.
Fake news has been called a threat to democracy. It has heavily impacted publishers, social media platforms, and sparked much debate within many industries, including PR.
Across the board, steps are being taken to battle fake news. Facebook has hired a taskforce to confront the issue and has tweaked its newsfeed to ensure what it calls “authentic communication”. The UK government has also stepped in, initiating conversations with newspapers and tech giants, such as Facebook.
As PR professionals, our goal is to clearly communicate messages and show the media that whoever we represent is engaging in newsworthy activities and therefore warrants publicity. Fake news erodes the trust people place in the content they read and has the potential to diminish the potency of the messages we want to share. An important part of our job is to showcase the facts, stripped of any overly-promotional or misleading language.
Often presenting a story in a non-sensationalised way is a challenge, something editors of newspapers know all too well. This is the lure of fake news, its relatively quick and easy to create – as opposed to crafting genuine stories.
When working with media we should be transparent to avoid any confusion. We don’t want to be perceived as a spinner of fake news ourselves. From a tactical standpoint, PRs should be monitoring their client mentions to ensure they’re not falling victim to untruths and any misleading claims or articles should be dealt with as soon as possible.
Fake news circumvents the need for truth, legitimacy and research. It makes the jobs of both PRs and journalists harder but also makes our roles more important. Now, more than ever before, PRs should be working closer with journalists to make sure we’re telling the right story and in the right way.