Among the countless false stories shared on social media recently was a faked photo of Barack Obama touching Melania Trump’s backside on Inauguration Day. Then there was the horrendous story that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a pizza shop. The sad truth is, a lot of people believed them.
BuzzFeed News found that fake news fooled Americans 75 percent of the time. Journalism.org sites a recent Pew Research study which said 23 percent of Americans believe they’ve shared a made-up news story – either knowingly or not.
Fake news isn’t limited to politics. Coca-Cola became a victim when it was falsely reported they recalled Dasani water bottles after a “clear parasite” was found in the water, complete with a photo of the alleged parasite.
It’s the responsibility of public relations professionals to ensure they don’t fall victim to fake news, or even create it on behalf of clients. “PR practitioners need to pay greater attention to what is being said and spread on social media,” wrote Dr. Joseph Truncale, CEO of the Public Relations Society of America. “Trust and transparency are critical elements to building corporate reputation.”
Protecting against fake news isn’t simple; it requires extra effort on behalf of the reader/viewer. Here are some quick tips:
- If the story seems extremely one-sided and alarmist, it may be fake news.
- Double-check the URL. If is seems odd, it’s probably fake news.
- If it’s a web site or a blog, see if the “about us” section looks legit.
- Think about who’s quoted in the story. Is he/she a seemingly credible source or does the quote seem sketchy?
- Fake news often comes from a satirical source such as “The Onion” or “ClickHole.” Double check this.
- Use fact-checking sites including PolitiFact, Snopes and factcheck.org.
For obvious reasons, PR people must be media savvy. We should get our news from multiple, credible sources, and compare stories for consistency. Fake news can be especially challenging for PR; it can damage politicians’, companies’ and individuals’ reputations. It’s up to us to protect our clients and ourselves by being well-informed. Your thoughts?