Prepare Now for Fake News Firestorms

“Fake news” heightens the confusion in our cluttered media landscape. If you get caught up in a fake news firestorm, that confusion becomes a serious challenge for your brand and business.

Most U.S. adults (64 percent) agree that fake news has left them confused about basic facts of current events, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Also striking: only 39 percent are very confident in their ability to recognize fake news, and nearly one in four have shared fake news.

During the recent presidential election, misquotes of Pepsi and New Balance’s CEOs led to boycotts and shoe burning. Coca-Cola’s Dasani faced bogus reports of parasites in its water, and McDonalds dealt with the fallout from a hijacked Twitter feed.

It’s enough just to be next to the fake news. Fiat Chrysler felt the heat when its programmatic native advertising aligned ads with fake news stories.

Fake news impacts both reputation and the bottom line. The Pepsi issue was the event that most negatively impacted the company’s reputation in 2016. A month after the incident, its stock price was still trailing its previous average.

Brands rarely have the chance to prevent their involvement in fake news. But, corporate communications leaders can still prepare. Here’s how.

Aggressively monitor your mentions

Fake news spreads faster than you can imagine. One hour produces more than 1.8 billion Facebook messages, 21 million tweets and nearly 3 million Instagram photos. You need 24-hour monitoring services, with team members ready to develop responses at a moment’s notice.

Incorporate fake news scenarios into your crisis planning

Hold candid conversations with your teams about vulnerabilities and red flags in your organization. What could be exploited in fake news? How have other companies responded? What resources can you put in place? Which champions can you call on? Answering these questions empowers you to mount a strategic, brand-appropriate response.

Regularly remind your employees of your media and social media policies

Your employees can be your best brand advocates. Equip them with clear guidelines and messages to support your organization. Without these tools, even the best intentions can go awry – and cause damage to your reputation.

Train your thought leaders to vet information and media before sharing opinions

In today’s rushed news cycle, even savvy thought leaders may accidentally share incorrect or outdated information, engage with fake social media accounts or align with the wrong media outlet. Establishing best practices and a process for providing counsel will help mitigate risks.

Invest in ongoing media relations to tell your positive stories

Earned media is the most trusted form of communications. Garnering coverage requires aggressive outreach, nimble storytelling power and emotionally resonant video and graphics. These investments create a more complete, more positive picture of your organization, helping maintain brand trust during a fake news crisis.

Assess and provide guidelines on where your paid advertising runs

Programmatic native advertising allows organizations a broad channel to frame their stories. Unfortunately, some outlets in this channel facilitate the spread of fake news and other problematic information. Organizations must work closely with their advertising networks to ensure their ads only appear in outlets that match their values.

The spotlight on fake news also shines a spotlight on its remedy: the truth. That’s a good thing. News organizations are working to mend the broken line between news and opinions, combat fake news and regain public trust. It’s the right environment for organizations to get engaged, build media relationships and prepare for any road blocks ahead. The more you do now, the more resilient your brand will be in a fake news firestorm.

This post originally appeared on O’Dwyer’s.

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