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Crisis communication: How to mitigate fake news

By Wendy Bulawa Agudelo

66809566_s.jpg3 ways you can combat fake news about your company

For those who studied journalism, the fake news phenomenon likely guts you like a knife. Our centuries-old career remains governed by a code of ethics, yet is regularly called into question in an era when anyone with internet access can call themselves journalists and appear semi-legitimate.

Fake news isn’t creatively disseminated or opinion-rich news; it is fraudulently created, completely false and non-fact-based information presented as news.

While fake news has always existed as an anomaly, the harmful practice gained high-profile public platform in earnest during the recent presidential election, when completely false and baseless stories appeared on websites parading as news sites. When information posted on those sites aligned with people’s opinions, it was broadly and quickly disseminated across social media platforms and revered as truth. There was little to no fact checking, just rapid-fire sharing, which further perpetuated the cycling of fake news. Worse, thousands of people, who spent mere seconds reading a headline or perhaps the first few sentences, unknowingly breathed tremendous life into the misinformation process when they shared information that wasn’t news at all, rather, one person’s fancy words masquerading as news. Behold the court of public opinion.

These days, a quick tweet, pinned infographic or shared story can instantly make or break a reputation – a reality that should have every corporation focused on crisis preparation. To combat fake news, should your company find itself embroiled within, follow these tips:

  1. Create a crisis communication plan and include fake news scenarios.
    Educate corporate executives about fake news (a false story about a company executive; inaccurate information about stock prices or company value; false allegations about a product). Prepare a strategy and assign team members to manage each element, including social media posts, removal of false stories, news conference assembly, etc. Having a light framework in place can provide assurance.
  1. Develop relationships with trusted influencers in your industry.
    Every industry follows a short list of trusted influencers who are regularly sought for their opinions. Relationships with these key influencers are of critical importance should fake news surface, as they can immediately support company efforts to debunk misinformation and combat bogus stories. Build relationships with your industry’s most respected journalists, bloggers, analysts and brand ambassadors who understand your industry, business, company and products to help counter negative or false stories should they surface.
  1. Leverage your in-house corporate champions.
    Your employees are your greatest assets in times of crisis as they can easily serve as advocates. Most individuals are active on at least one social media platform and therefore provide one more network across which to convey fact-based information broadly and quickly. Use your employees as allies by asking them to share company-crafted content across their own personal networks.

Fake news has taken hold, so it’s necessary for you to prepare to combat it. To learn how a PR partner can help your business avoid a fake news crisis, download Axia Public Relations’ e-book Managing Public Relations in a Crisis today.

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Wendy-color.jpgWendy Bulawa Agudelo has nearly 20 years of experience in technology, business, consumer and nonprofit public relations. She serves on the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress PR Task Force and is a culinary enthusiast and champion for the special needs community. Wendy has worked for Axia Public Relations since September 2014. Learn more about Wendy Bulawa Agudelo. Connect with Axia on Twitter @axiapr or tell us what you think in the comments below.





Featured image credit: 123rf.com

Topics: public relations, crisis communications

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