How marketeers can combat fake news in a post-truth world

Making headlines with fake news

By Annie Brafield

After the word ‘post-truth’ was chosen as Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2016, it comes as no surprise that the subject of fake news continues to make headlines.

Articles are frequently being questioned for their validity, satirical news sites are causing both laughter and confusion and Channel 4 even aired ‘The Fake News Show’ which discussed and mocked fake news stories.

And it’s not just consumers that are falling for fake news; The Sun newspaper was recently duped by a ‘news’ story created by Southend News Network, which was run on its website and through its social media channels.

We recently attended a webinar hosted by brand psychologist Jonathan Gabay discussing fake news, the highlights of which we will be discussing in this blog.

“We have gone from the age of ‘information overload’ to the era of ‘misinformation overload.’”

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reports that “More than half of online users get their news from Facebook and other social media platforms.” Given that online news is not fact-checked or regulated in the same way as print publications and anyone has the ability to publish whatever they like on the Internet, online news is left vulnerable to manipulation. This, coupled with a general reluctance to pay for news, has left journalists making their revenue from clicks and advertising, leading to the publication of sensationalist articles and uncovering of stories from questionable sources on social media.

Additionally, as a result of online filter bubbles, you are increasingly being shown information and content that reflects your own thoughts, ideas and world view. In the case of Facebook, your news feed reflects news and opinions from friends and family that are very similar to your own, rather than displaying adverse views that could open you up to new ways of thinking and broaden your horizons.

“When misinformed people are exposed to the correct facts, they rarely change their minds.”

While real news is often complicated, complex and contradictory, fake news is usually presented from a more black and white perspective and attempts to persuade people of its legitimacy.

The fake news issue is exacerbated by the fact that people don’t read online in the same way that they read offline. Interestingly, Gabay mentions that online reading tends to take the form of scanning, with people often reading a headline or scanning an article without attempting to delve deeper into the subject or considering the source of the information. When people who have ingested fake news or incorrect facts are presented with legitimate facts they rarely change their minds. Additionally, their brain starts to create a story in order for it to make sense.

“Clients trust brands and as marketers we need to respect and protect that.”

From questioning a brand’s narrative to becoming suspicious of messaging, fake news could impact the authenticity and credibility of brands.

“Remain sincere and straightforward.”

Gabay believes that in order to combat fake news, it is important to create honest and reliable content and to ensure than your brand is as authentic as possible. In an increasingly distrusting world, trustworthy content will stand out. Consider this in relation to well-known influencers such as bloggers or YouTube stars who are often paid to promote a product or service; it may be better to approach industry experts or everyday people.

Fake news and PR

It’s really important to think about the prevalence of fake news when strategy planning PR and digital campaigns. This is particularly important when it comes to crisis communications strategy. Monitoring what is being said online about your brand and related topics using social listening tools such as Meltwater can help spot a crisis before it gains pace.

This post originally appeared on the Cartwright Communications blog.

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