As any casual reader of the news would know, 2017 is fast becoming the year of ‘fake news’. But what does this mean for businesses who still want to use news media as a way to communicate with their potential customers. Does the eroding confidence in the media mean that it is no longer an effective tool for communication? While it easy to give in to the doom and gloom of ‘fake news’ hyperbole, many people still trust their news outlets to give them the facts, and businesses and PR practitioners alike can have a role in shoring up public confidence in the news media, while still delivering their message to consumers and the general public.
Set the record straight
In the era of the 24 hour news cycle, journalistic expediency may dictate that getting the story out is more important than checking all the facts. If your company is connected to a story, directly or indirectly, you can ensure that what is being reported is accurate. Communicate directly with the journalist who is producing the story, or, if they are reluctant to hear your viewpoint for whatever reason, find another journalist to air your side of the story. In order for the public to be fully informed, they need to have all the perspectives.
Keep calm and communicate
It is tempting in a communications crisis for a firm to shut up shop and proffer little or no comment, or worse still, to attempt to misinform the public in order to save face. This sort of communicating erodes confidence, not just in the news media but also in your brand. While the truth may hurt on occasion, with effective communications strategies firms can both communicate the truth and preserve their reputations. This strategy will stand you in stark contrast with brands who exploit journalists’ limited resources for a short term shot at public misinformation – a strategy which often leads to long term consequences for a brand and contributes to the ‘fake news’ problem.
Much fanfare has been made about the public’s loss of confidence in the media, but in the court of public opinion, not all publications receive the same verdict. For a variety of reasons, the public views different news sources with varying degrees of reliability. Targeting publications that people trust, publications that people believe are offering them truthful and balanced reporting, can give your message additional clout, heightening the value of your communication. While it may be easier to get your story or comment a run from a less reputable news outlet, if the audience do not trust the source it will not be worth the effort.