by Sophia Dass
Fake news is a recycled phenomenon. Distorted narratives and half-truths were once labelled as ‘propaganda’ if led by the government, or considered ‘hoaxes’ if planned by members of the public. However, the internet has become an incubator for fiction to be cultivated into ‘fact’, making misinformation more readily available than ever before.
PR professionals are constantly trawling the internet for the latest news, but real and fictitious stories are often presented in similar ways, making it difficult to differentiate between the two. With hundreds of fake news sites masquerading as reputable newspapers, it is crucial to be aware of what’s going on in the media landscape - particularly in regards to your clients!
Here’s what PRs can do to spot it and (hopefully) stop it:
1. Do your detective work.
If a story does not come from a reliable source or its facts aren’t verified, be cautious in giving it credibility. If a dubious headline is gaining traction, it is wise to disengage from the conversation and alert stakeholders.
2. Communication is key.
Ask your colleagues for their thoughts on the subject – a little scepticism could be your (and your company’s!) saving grace. Fallacious stories have been known to be picked up by the nationals, and in the case of this occurring, fake news could cost you, the business and your client.
3. Don’t be a people pleaser.
As a PR professional, client interest is at the heart of everything you do. However, embracing fake news in an attempt to bolster client messaging, will inevitably hurt both you and your client. Never position a client within a fake news trend, regardless of its popularity/trending capability.
4. Prevention is better than cure.
As the fake news pandemic continues to spread, the best thing that PRs can do is to equip themselves with knowledge of where fake news could potentially emerge, and further, be prepared to speak up about it. It is also wise to have a pre-prepared plan of action, in the case of a bogus story emerging about a client.