The Public Relations Challenge in a Fake News Era
By Tom Becktold, Founder, NewsDriver
We are increasingly sorting into information tribes and distrusting traditional institutions – government, media, industry. We turn to our friends and family more than news media, brands or politicians.
Our opinion leaders are the people we know personally or feel connected to on social media. But in this ocean of distrust, a glimmer of light for business. According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer research, 61% percent of respondents trust business to keep pace with rapid change, higher than NGOs or government.
As the just-concluded 2016 U.S. presidential election reinforced, we now feel entitled to our own set of facts as well as opinions. Fake news sites, served up by the likes of Facebook and Google, reinforce our version of reality, reaching into politics, culture and business.
Fake news is outperforming real news on critical social platforms, according to this recently concluded study using Facebook APIs.
For now, at least, they serve regularly into Facebook news streams alongside the Washington Post, New York Times, Gizmodo and other journalist-based sites. And their is growing evidence that these fake news sites are considered as or more credible than legitimate news organizations.
Do you ignore engaging with fake news sites? Treat them like Internet trolls? Go silent or not respond to the false information they so effectively push out to a willing audience? Or engage with them and taint your brand by adding legitimacy to their efforts?
For brand stewards in public relations, that’s an incredible challenge. And an opportunity. We need to think out of the box. Challenge previous notions of gatekeepers and media coverage over connecting to personal influencers. It’s not going to be a straight line to a solution, and our choices won’t often be either/or, but rather cumulative and adaptive.