Fake news and misinformation have always existed, but today’s online tools and human behavior provide fertile ground for disinformation to travel even faster. However, with the right proactive and reactive tools, PR professionals can combat misinformation and protect the company’s reputation.
Use the following 8 tips to stop the fast-spreading weed of rumors and misinformation:
- Know how disinformation spreads
Determining the root cause of a falsehood’s proliferation is key in fighting back. Disinformation travels five times faster than factual information online. Public relations best practices will help in this process.
- Know where your consumers get their news
Brands need to know their consumers, and a key part of that is diving into where they get their information. Once brands have identified these sources, they need to know and constantly monitor them. Great PR professionals should have a relationship with some of these sources.
- Leverage credible third parties
While businesses need to come to their own defense, endorsements and opinions from credible third parties can be invaluable. But to combat misinformation effectively, you must start building those relationships ahead of time.
‘Make friends before you need them’ is a maxim of crisis communications. Nobody is going to risk their own reputation and credibility for an organization, and in a situation they’re not familiar with.
- Tell the truth and do it quickly
Fighting fire with fire never works, so don’t try responding to PR mistakes by making more PR mistakes.
The two biggest mistakes in managing misinformation is covering up or admitting the truth as an afterthought.
The public smells this and further damages the reputation of the company.
- Content is your best friend
Create and publish as much content as possible around the company or person getting attacked by fake news. Always be clear, transparent, truthful and available through all media channels.
If mistakes are made, admit them. Communicate what is going to change to correct mistakes and problems going forward. Then, you can deal with misinformation.
- Deploy social media to your advantage
Some highly effective strategies to manage information about your organization before it could go viral include using social media monitoring technologies to catch false news fast.
You can then use your social media channels to debunk the misinformation and post the more accurate version immediately. That way, the negative disinformation is neutralized quickly before it causes further damage.
The news went out recently that Guinness was leaving Nigeria and setting up its headquarters in Ghana.
Though Guinness was slow to respond, it finally did and used both the traditional media and social media to combat the misinformation.
- Plan for the worst
Always plan for the worst case scenario and have strategies in place to deal with issues as well as well-trained spokespersons to respond accordingly.
Don’t wait to start planning your action after the misinformation has taken root.
- Oil your media relations machinery
Ensure you maintain excellent media relations and keep grooming your key media contacts. That way, the media will be willing to publish your correct version of the story in cases of misinformation and disinformation.
Here are a few quick tips on media relations:
- Keep the lines of communications open always.
- Update your media base constantly.
- Ensure key journalists have the contact details of your spokesperson.
- Encourage the media to immediately contact you to verify any misinformation or company news they are not sure of.
- Support your local media and provide them relevant information, statistics and resources. Don’t just keep sending press releases alone.