Ronn Torossian On Navigating Social Media Misinformation

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Many companies and PR agencies tend to pride themselves on the strong relationships they’ve developed with news outlets and journalists, as well as on their very specialized knowledge about all publications that cover topics relevant to a company’s industry niche. However, outside of the media landscape, the sheer number of news, as well as news-like publishers can be overwhelming to many people. There are hundreds of thousands of websites as well as audio, video, and print outlets, and many of them tend to spread misinformation or polarizing political content with their audiences. 

Those types of stories and content present plenty of issues as well as opportunities for companies, and knowing more about the publications themselves is what can help businesses navigate the path of risks and rewards in our current media landscape. 

Bad Press

Until recently, bad press was defined as any sort of negative coverage on a company in a reputable outlet that exposes some legitimate issues about a business. While the company might perceive that media coverage as unfair or unwanted, it was still grounded in legitimate concerns from the public, and PR agencies have been handling these types of situations for decades. 

However, these days, bad press also includes politicized attacks from all types of outlets, even outlets that solely exist to generate outrage and polarization with the public. Additionally, those types of attacks from outlets can even be created by initiatives that a company is proud of, and fully supports. An example of this is a recent story from a right-wing publication that condemned the restaurant chain Pizza Hut by attacking the company’s initiatives that support education. While the story circled several publications with low reliability, it wasn’t actually covered in any sort of reputable outlets. As a result, a small number of people developed an unwarranted dislike and dismissal of the brand solely based on misinformation. 

Leading Opportunities

While biased news stories and misinformation can clearly damage a company’s brand as well as society at large, these issues can also create positive opportunities for those same companies to lead cultural changes and innovate. One of the things that companies can do in such situations is actively support good journalism and not fund junk news outlets. While trust in media outlets is at an all-time low, which leads to both reputable publications and individual journalists suffering as a result, companies can still step in and change that. 

The first step in navigating those types of situations is for companies to identify reputable publishers and make a commitment to only spend their advertising budgets with those outlets. Additionally, there have been a number of initiatives in the last few years that have focused attention on the topic of good journalism outlets at both national and local levels, as well as their importance to society overall.


Ronn Torossian - How PR Firms Can Lead by Example with Diversity and InclusionAbout the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR firm.