Each year, dictionary.com names a word of the year characterizing a cultural theme for the previous 12 months. Perhaps it comes as no surprise the word for 2018 is “misinformation.” Defined as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead,” misinformation and its more menacing cousin “fake news” pose serious challenges to everyone who live and communicate in the Information Age.
For news media and journalists, the challenge of sorting through misinformation can be especially troublesome. Cision, the provider of public relations software and services, stated of journalists in its 2018 Global State of the Media Report, “Being 100 percent accurate in their reporting is more important than being first on a story or the promise of exclusivity.” Now more than ever before, journalists and brands need reliable public relations partners that can disseminate the facts and handle misinformation.
Dealing with misinformation will continue to be an important activity for communications professionals, and it’s one AOE is familiar with. One example occurred in 2018, when AOE successfully launched a campaign for our client Doka to combat the threat of misinformation about a new facility for administrative offices and warehouses. Opponents had spread false, baseless information about the effects of Doka’s plans. But the project would bring much benefit to the community including the renovation of an unoccupied dairy facility and bringing economic opportunity to the area, which had suffered a significant setback when the dairy closed.
AOE helped overcome this spread of misinformation by creating a Doka microsite – a unique and concise website dedicated to the issue. We quickly and easily created an online portal for Doka sharing the facts about their move. With information about Doka, FAQs and other resources, the microsite allowed the community to learn the facts and form a knowledgeable opinion about the facility.
Press Releases Remain Tops
In addition to dedicated microsites, tried-and-true tactics perform well in combatting fake news. According to Cision, journalists still say their “most valuable and trusted piece of PR content is the traditional press release.” Sixty-three percent of journalists reported that press releases are what they most want from PR contacts, and 44 percent say it’s their most trusted source of brand-related information.
Is a competitor spreading false information about your brand? Change the story with positive news from your company. Determine what’s newsworthy in your company and share it in a press release with the media. If you’re not sure what to share, consider creating your own news with a quick survey about an industry trend and then distribute the results in a press release. Online resources such as Google Forms and surveymonkey.com make it easy to develop and distribute surveys to your database. To maximize your press release’s usability, consider tailoring it to the outlet and include a link to a video that online outlets can share.
Fake Online Statements
Another prevalent source of misinformation is the fake online review or comment. This could be a fake or negative comment on Facebook, Yellow Pages, Angie’s List or any other social platform. Oftentimes, online visitors don’t even realize the difference between fake and real reviews. So what’s a brand to do? A response plan is essential.
PR Daily recommends the following:
- Identify the attack is fake.
- Report it to the platform on which it appeared (Google, Facebook, Angie’s List, etc.)
- Respond to the review with professionalism, restraint and the facts.
Read more here.
Dealing with misinformation and fake news is one of the biggest challenges for communications professionals today. Journalists and editors must navigate the onslaught of information and determine what’s fact or fiction. More than ever before, a reliable public relations strategy helps companies remain competitive. If you’d like to learn more about combatting misinformation and any of the strategies mentioned here, contact AOE today.