There’s no news like fake news! While fake news has been around for a long time, the 2016 US presidential election showed the lightning speed at which it goes viral on social media. And brands aren’t spared either – the rise of malicious content and alternative news sites means that brands have to protect themselves, now more than ever. That’s exactly what a Washington DC pizzeria discovered when it fell victim to fake news reports that led a man to open fire in the restaurant following claims of it being a child-abuse ring.
For brands, combatting the menace of fake news means getting back to the basics of PR and developing a crisis communications plan. Here are some tips for brands to counter fake news effectively:
Stop feeding the trolls
If you’ve fallen prey to fake news, assuring people by making official press statements would only grant a short-term relief. Take this opportunity to turn a crisis around. Instead of replying to negative messages with negative response, focus on spreading positive news. Be diligent in your response, leaving no room for interpretation. Explain why the news is incorrect, state your brand’s position in that context, and distribute your content accordingly.
Don’t over react
Recognise the difference between fake news and sarcasm as some media outlets may take a contrarian view. Identifying this can be crucial and should be tacked with good humour as opposed to being defensive!
Make employees your brand advocates
In times of a communication breakdown, it is key to ensure every employee is equipped with the right message. To do this, everyone in the company should know what happened and where the truth lies. An employee may take to social media to express their own opinion about the firm, and if this opinion is ever based on fake news – a small spark is enough to start a fire.
Active monitoring and response
Implement robust monitoring for all social channels, sub-brands and key spokespeople. Get rid of auto-responses, instead respond proactively and in real-time. Moreover, investments in paid search and promotion on social media sites can go a long way to countering fake news. Have adequate skills and budget in place for paid planning and targeting.
Publish more often
Written content has the ability to combat a fake news story, alter a negative situation, and reinvent your brand in a positive light. Do not republish attacks. Instead, share positive content that counters fake news via owned, shared media channels and influencers including traditional media in the form of blogs and thought leadership.
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