Who cares about fake news? You do!

24 March 2017

Fake news is nothing new. Rumour and sensational news always has and always will attract readers – who doesn’t like a bit of gossip?

But in a digital world centred on sharing, and a 24-hour news cycle, the fake news phenomenon is an increasing concern for PR professionals and our clients. It’s fooling the most experienced publications and has even caused Facebook, Twitter and Google to review their algorithms.

Even today, the SMH and AFR have been accused of falsely reporting that Harvey Norman is being investigated by ASIC.

To understand the impact of fake news to society and the challenges for the media industry, Honner recently attended an event hosted by UTS and the ABC, Trust and truth in the digital age.

In a discussion that covered responsibility, free speech and the need for regulation, we took away some insights relevant to organisations operating in an era of fake news.

It’s all about the facts

News sites from CNN to the Wall Street Journal and the ABC have been accused of publishing fake news stories – and when the truth emerges, there is a lot of finger pointing. Sometimes a story is just too good to resist.

However, with most journalists encouraged to submit multiple stories a day, there is very little time for fact checking or source referencing. For PR professionals, a pitch that is supported by quality data, case studies or third-party verification is much more likely to garner journalist interest than one without. Journalists simply aren’t willing to risk putting their name against a story full of holes.

This is one of the many reasons we encourage clients to undertake and validate research, particularly through whitepapers or surveys.

Relationships are paramount

Strong journalist relationships are crucial in building trust. Journalists who have never heard of your company or spokespeople may be hesitant to take an interest in your story.

However, if you are a known source, your story or commentary is more likely to be trusted and picked up. It’s also likely you’ll become a trusted go-to source for industry commentary – an envious position for your competitors!

As part of our PR programs, we encourage clients to regularly participate in a media contact program that builds relationships with journalists.

Embrace channels outside traditional media

Media is just one part of the puzzle and reputations aren’t solely built or protected through mainstream coverage. Now, more than ever, organisations need to embrace fully-integrated communications programs which incorporate social, digital and content and engage their target audiences over time.

Fake news isn’t going away and while this presents many challenges, it should prompt the financial services industry to refine their media approach and explore alternative channels.

Want to know more about the changing media landscape? Read here about Honner’s visit to Fairfax Media last year or here for first-hand insights into the financial services trade media.

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