Six months after the election, fake news continues to be a real threat. Not just to the political system, but to businesses and the PR professionals charged with safeguarding their fragile public images.
If last year’s campaign season taught us anything, it’s that people will believe anything that supports their personal agendas. That’s how fibs like Pizzagate, a wild conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton and a human trafficking ring, spread like wildfire and become part of the national conversation.
While most will read a story like Pizzagate and ponder the political implications, there’s another victim here: the pizzeria. How do you bounce back from an accusation, no matter how unfounded, that you are harboring a child sex slave operation?
Even when a fake news story is debunked, it doesn’t erase the damage. That’s why it’s important to aggressively confront fake news threats before they spiral. Here are six ways to do so:
Have a Plan: If the trolls start to circle around a fake story, it’s important not to be caught flat-footed. But it’s even more important to avoid a knee-jerk reaction that fans the flames. Have a detailed plan for combatting fake news threats, and make sure it’s shared with your client.
Be a Social Watchdog: Facebook has taken steps to stamp out fake news. It’s a good start, but don’t let your guard down. Conduct frequent searches on all social platforms to monitor conversations about your company, and see if its name is bubbling up in any unfavorable contexts.
Third Party Tracking: If you represent a business that’s especially vulnerable to attack due to political interests or something else that makes it a lightning rod for controversy, hire a third-party company to track movement throughout the day.
Check Credentials: The Internet is inundated with blogs and online publications. Some are legitimate, some are not. Get the story behind sketchy outlets before giving them access to your client.
Truths > Lies: The truth is your best ally when it comes to disproving fake news. If you can, serve up concrete evidence that the story in question is phony. Share it on your own social media, and if things start to spiral, leverage your contacts in the media to see if they will broadcast your side of the story.