So what is #FakeNews anyway?
And more importantly, how does it affect us as public relations professionals.
The buzzword of late is #FakeNews. It’s Wikipedia entry begins with the statement:
“Fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.”
The Founding Fathers, included a free press within the very first amendment. The Heritage Foundation notes that in The Appeal to the Inhabitants of Quebec, written by the First Continental Congress in 1774, the founders revealed:
“The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs.”
In summary, the first amendment of the US Constitution was framed with several clear intents for a free and unabridged press; and these include: Advancing our core western values of reason and free expression as is communicated by disciplines like art and science and also serving as another check-and-balance on government accountability.
As PR people, we are news people too. We might call it, “the other side” of news. However, news is still our lives, much the same way it is to a journalist. Understanding what #FakeNews is and how to prevent our involvement in it should be paramount to us for a variety of reasons:
- Reputation of our agency and the clients it represents.
- Generalized industry ethics and the greater consequences of bending or disregarding those ethics.
- Social consciousness and responsibility.
- Respect for relationships with our peers on the front lines of the news, seasoned and reputable journalists.
Simple tips to keep yourself and your clients out of the #FakeNews cycle:
- Rigorous fact checking in 3rd party content: If you are managing your client’s social media channels you should be fact checking 3rd party content before posting it. To cut out a lot of noise from the get-go, stick with reputable, mainstream sources of news who historically adhere to standards of journalism. Examples include The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal in politics and business; Vanity Fair or Vogue in arts and entertainment; Wired, National Geographic or Psychology Today in science and technology. It’s still recommended to look over each piece of 3rd party content before posting, no matter how esteemed the publication is.
- Scrutinize the reputation of any publication before pitching your client to their editors and producers: While we all want to get lots of mentions for our clients and their products, not every opportunity is a good opportunity. When you are crafting your media lists, screen each publication in advance. Large databases like Cision will return all the results, in any category, with high circulation or unique monthly views. That doesn’t mean every publication on that list is one you want your client or your client’s product associated with.
- Realizing that some mentions may be out of your control, you still don’t have to personally promote them: When working with high profile personalities or large global conglomerates, you will undoubtedly get mentioned where and when you didn’t solicit it. However, that doesn’t mean you need to repurpose all of these mentions on the client’s social channels, blog or email marketing content. While you do need to make your client aware of each instance in which they were included in the news, you can downplay inclusion in questionable publications by simply not chattering about it more. Don’t be afraid to point out glaring falsehoods or typos to editors either.
At the end of the day it is all about balance. Leveraging what control we do have as public relations professionals to contribute in a thoughtful and responsible way to both our clients and the news industry at large. For more information on traditional public relations services offered at Bas Bleu PR, email us via the contact form on this site.