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Faking it: why PR pros must work harder in the fake news era

Fake news: Collins Dictionary’s ‘word of the year’ in 2017 and the current friend/foe of politicians and spin-doctors around the world.

While fake news is by no means a new phenomenon, its proliferation in the US election and the myriad of fake news sites that have popped up over the past 18 months have amplified it hugely.

And although our favourite technology giants Facebook and Google are both taking steps to reduce the spread of fake news and misinformation, the growing group of people it is impacting is a worry. No longer solely an issue facing bickering politicians and super celebrities, fake news is now an issue for more than just the world’s elite.

Businesses and brands are just as at risk, as we’ve seen in recent months. Starbucks fell victim to the trend last summer when it was falsely reported that the coffee chain was giving away free coffee to undocumented American immigrants – something it quickly debunked over Twitter. And more locally to us Mancunians, the city’s tram system had to quickly tell its customers that a poster claiming it was offering free travel across the network on Valentine’s Day was incorrect.

But it’s not just businesses, brands and public figures that are at risk – it’s PR pros too. Working with brands and businesses of all sizes on a daily basis, PRs must ensure our clients are producing valuable content to cut through the rubbish, especially considering dwindling trust in the media and the fact that a number of people now have trouble distinguishing which stories are real and fake. PRs will also have to work harder to protect their clients’ reputations in the era of fake news.

Of course, all good PR pros will provide top quality content to journalists and should therefore already have good relationships with their key contacts. Good PRs will be trusted by these journalists, so the situation will be easier to manage should misinformation be spread about a client. Journalists will also increasingly rely on PRs to provide them with accurate information from the off, as cutbacks make them even more strapped for time and reliant on us to give them factual information the first time, every time.

In addition, PR pros that haven’t already will need to brush up on their social media and crisis comms skills to ensure that any situations that arise in this fake news era can be managed quickly and efficiently.

Here at Refresh PR we’ll be keeping our eye on the situation and ensuring our clients don’t suffer damage because of it. So if you’re a business that thinks they need a bit of help, or could benefit from some crisis communications advice or training, give us a call on 0161 871 1188 or check out our upcoming event here.

Tagged with: Fake news, Lifestyle, PR Manchester, Public Relations North West, Social Media