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4 of 5 PR Experts Don’t Think Americans Can Tell the Difference Between Fake News Sites and Legitimate Sources

Computer laptop keyboard with the words FAKE NEWS in red letters on black keys, selected focus, narrow depth of fieldWorldcom PR Group Weighs in on Strategies that Communicators Can Employ

As fake news and “alternative facts” continue to generate humorous online memes and punch lines, public relations and marketing professionals have an urgent need to discuss how fake news seriously affects brands. According to a new partner survey conducted by the Worldcom Public Relations Group, a global partnership of independent public relations firms, over 80 percent of respondents indicated that they do not believe the American news-consuming public is able to identify fake news—an alarming revelation for communications pros. The survey also revealed that over 50 percent of respondents have had to counsel clients on the topic of fake news in the last 45 days.

“The truth about fake news is that, sadly, this is a very serious and legitimate issue that affects the integrity of the PR and marketing professions, as well as the ultimate end result of informing the news-consuming public,” said Jonathan Bloom, marketing chair of Worldcom Public Relations Group Americas Region and CEO of McGrath/Power Public Relations and Communications, in a news release. “Certainly, over the years, marketers and brands have enjoyed a fair amount of freedom pushing the boundaries of news dissemination, but the current climate has forced us to confront the more sinister motives of spreading fake news. We’ve seen firsthand the dangers of how false news stories spread on social media platforms, making it even more important now for PR and marketing agencies to counsel their clients on these external factors and how these alarming trends can impact their brands.”

Worldcom partners agreed that organizations that found themselves victim of a fake news story should approach the story with a strategy similar to that used in any other crisis communications situation: Assess, contain and combat. The proliferation of fake news and its potential for rapid reach on social media have made it essential for all communications teams to consider strategies now rather than waiting until the company or brand finds itself the subject of a fake news story.

Many fake news stories appear on websites that do not follow the same journalistic code of ethics as publications, such as The New York Times or The Washington Post, making it essential for communications teams to be prepared to leverage social media channels to share data, images, videos and third-party sources to correct fake news stories in a convincing manner. Finally, just as with any crisis communications situation, information that could be interpreted as validation for a fake news claim should be disclosed immediately. Full transparency is paramount to diffusing any negative story, fake or otherwise.

Adding context to the partner survey, Worldcom leveraged Voxpopme, a powerful video platform that allows brands to capture instantaneous feedback from any audience, to collect real-time perspectives and opinions from its global members on these issues about fake news. See a compilation of video responses here.

Source: Business Wire; edited by Richard Carufel

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