Information about current events has always been of main concern to individuals and institutions, as it dictates the way we live our lives and make our choices based on the things happening around us. From word of mouth to printing, or electronic communication, people’s need for keeping up with news and events is at the center of all communication strategies and techniques, regardless of the medium. In recent years, traditional and new media outlets have captured the attention of the general public with more than the purpose they were supposed to serve, as the concepts of ‘fake news’ and ‘post truth’ gained more and more coverage.
If in the past fake news was mostly associated with certain corners of the online environment and politics, nowadays its impact has navigated into all mediums and topics. According to a recent study conducted in the United States, more than 52% of responders believe that online news sources publish fake news with regularity. Affecting anyone from private individuals to corporations, this trend has taken the world by storm, spreading through social media channels, private chats, and other means of modern communication. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that news outlets and communication professionals know how to reduce their impact.
One of the main aspects behind the dominance of fake news and how people react to this phenomenon is the concept itself, as calling it ‘made-up stories’—like we did in the past—significantly diminishes the impact. But fake news has been around for centuries, with little change in what they represent, yet noteworthy changes in the medium used for its broadcast. In the 1600s, newsbooks were publishing reports speaking of the discovery of giant monsters, of people living past a hundred without food or water, and many other made-up stories that were never verified, nor seen as something that could cause a dent in the reputation of publishers.
Things changed considerably with the appearance of newspapers, as putting an emphasis on reputation and the authenticity of published stories became more and more important. Yet in one way or another, fake news and made-up stories have always been present in the publishing industry, but it wasn’t until the creation of the internet—and specifically the apparition of social media networks—that the phenomenon gained such control over our day-to-day lives. Currently, the distribution of fake news and the swiftness with which a message can reach a large number of people have made it almost impossible for its impact to be in any way minimized, whether we are speaking of private, political, and social issues—or issues involving corporate entities. It is no longer about proving the authenticity of the message, but about the fact that once said message has been broadcasted, the damage is already done.
With highlighting in the public sphere being done substantially on what fake news meant for the 2016 political campaign, people often forget that this issue affects more industries and environments than the political one, such as the business environment—and by extension—internal and crisis communicators.
Protecting your company in the era of fake news that gets distributed within seconds and can reach a large number of people means knowing everything about what fake news represents, how it can impact your business, and what communication strategies to implement in order to reduce its impact.
How fake news can impact the corporate environment:
Depending on the industry your company operates in, on its size, sector, and the position it holds in the market and among its competitors, fake news can have a wide range of influences on the overall activity of your business. Therefore, assessing this and knowing what you can do about it relies on a methodical analysis of all these aspects.
First and foremost, you need to understand that fake news in the corporate environment can come in all shapes and sizes—it doesn’t have to be about an untrustworthy news outlet publishing something about your company, with people sharing it on social media. Fake news can circulate in the form of internal gossip, it can come in the form of misinformation originated from competitors, and many other causes. Fortunately, a team of great communication professionals and communication strategies that are up-to-date and implemented through modern solutions can significantly reduce the impact of fake news and assure business continuity.
Same as with crisis communication strategies or internal communication templates, a plan must be drafted for dealing with fake news and how your team of communication professionals should act when or if such an issue impacts your business. Make sure that your plans take into account as many situations as possible, so that you can minimize the response time and reduce the impact fake news can have on your business—regardless of when or how it happens.
The more operational your communication strategies are, the easier it will be for your business to properly deal with fake news in all stages—from the start, to its aftermath. A solution such as a mass notification system will help you broadcast all necessary messages, contact your employees with swiftness, and make sure everyone involved is informed and working toward remedying the situation. An effective mass notification system will also help you avoid internal communication failures.
Given the rapidity with which fake news spreads, make sure that if you are dealing with an issue caused by an internal error or by another situation that is your responsibility, you will correct it an issue an apology as fast as you can. Be honest in your statement, and share the proper amount of details that will help people see your professionalism, but don’t overexpose internal affairs, especially before a proper investigation will be conducted.
Reducing the impact of fake news always means being aware of what news are circulating about your business within a proper timeframe, therefore setting up Google alerts related to your business is of utmost importance. Getting notifications rather than having to manually search for information will save you time which you can use for other activities, and will also ensure you have the information as soon as it is posted.
Aside from these essential strategies that will help internal communication professionals reduce the impact of fake news, you need to also have a trusted set of sources, and mention whether the source of what you are sharing has been vetted or not. If you have a social media presence, always make sure that the messages you are posting are sharing will not create a future fake news problem. You can do this by setting templates and posting content that is strictly related to your activity, or industry information that has passed the proper verification channels.
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